This week I sat down with Program Director Pat LaClair to hear about the work of the Vergennes Elementary School Personal Power and Community Connections (P2C2) team. The following are highlights from our conversation.  

Tell me a little bit about the project and how it got started. 

The P2C2 team started in November, and they are on a vigorous schedule; they have retreats every month. There are students from every 4th, 5th and 6th grade class in the school on the team. They meet in various locations around Vergennes, like the Opera House or the fire station. There are about 20 youth on the team, along with several teachers. The Community Schools coordinator for the district, as well as the assistant principal, are also involved and come to the retreats. Their first retreat was about building community, and the second retreat focused on looking at data and identifying common concerns. The data they collected focused on students’ sense of belonging, how they express their feelings, and how they learn in class. The team went back to their classes to share their findings, as well as discuss the strengths and concerns that they identified. Vergennes Union Elementary School is a Community School, so it receives Vermont Community School grant funding. This Personal Power and Community Connections (P2C2 project) is related to that initiative, and is also connected to the Youth and Family Engagement Team (YFET) that will start up in February. 

What are some highlights of working with this team?

The team is super energetic! They bring a lot of passion and fun to the retreats. It is a group that also feels truly representative of their school. The adults worked really hard to bring in all sorts of different students to the group, and they seem to have come together well as a team. It doesn’t feel all that different from working with middle or high schoolers; they are ready to have conversations about how their school is and isn’t working for them. 

What have been some challenges that this team has faced? 

It is a busy team, but the work has gone pretty smoothly! There is a lot going on, including the Youth and Family Engagement Team starting up. The other elementary school in the district, Ferrisburgh Central School, is also starting their own P2C2 team. It is a testament to the adults who are supporting these teams- they are juggling so many obligations, but are really investing in this work as well. 

What are the next steps for this team? 

They are going to be focusing on root causes of concerns and then will brainstorm potential actions- ways that they can ameliorate those causes. We are hoping that the P2C2 team will co-facilitate with the YFET. Vergennes High School student Rory, Getting to ‘Y’ Program Director Jesse Brooks’ daughter, has been facilitating the elementary school students, and that has been great. The team’s mascot is a stuffed squirrel; if anyone has name suggestions, please send them along!