BENNINGTON >> Local young folk will have their time to shine at this Saturday's third annual Youth Appreciation Day.
Activities start at noon at Willow Park and will include a basketball tournament sponsored by Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, t-shirt tie dying, raffles and live music.
The community has all month to express gratitude to youth, thanks in part to local teens. Teens 4 Change and members from the Alliance for Community Transformation (ACT) Youth Ambassador program met with Gov. Peter Shumlin in Montpelier last month. Shumlin signed a resolution generated four years ago which established the youth appreciation day and month.
Teens 4 Change is a local chapter of the national group Youth M.O.V.E. (Motivating Others through Voices of Experience) and operates under United Counseling Service of Bennington (UCS).
"Four years is a long time and it's an accomplishment to have the proclamation," Katrina Hollis, youth outreach worker with UCS, said. "It's great to put Vermont on the map for our youth's driven approaches. When I asked the group for volunteers for the event they all raised their hand and I said 'No, I'm working this day. It's time for you guys to have fun.'"
Students from Bennington's Career Development Center drafted the youth appreciation day resolution in 2013, and in April of that year it was adopted by the Vermont House of Representatives. The Bennington Select Board proclaimed the last Saturday in April as Youth Appreciation Day. Since then, AmeriCorps VISTA's (Volunteer In Service To America) has taken the lead.
The event's conception followed a 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey that indicated local teens did not feel valued by the community — 38 percent of high school students in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union (SVSU) reported feeling that way, compared to the state's average of 50 percent.
"That was the idea behind it — [the number] was well below the state average," AmeriCorps VISTA at the Alliance for Community Transformation Nevin Lessard said. "So we want them to feel like they're important."
"Even though it's just one day, it's getting the conversation started," AmeriCorps VISTA's Michelle Marrocco for the Bennington County Regional Commission said. "That's one of the goals — to get people to talk about it."
VISTA was founded in 1965 to fight poverty in America and joined the AmeriCorps network in 1993. Members make a year-long commitment to live and serve in impoverished areas under a project sponsored by a non-profit or public organization in return for a living allowance, health benefits and a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, according to the National & Community Service. Each year about 8,000 VISTAs are placed in over 1,1000 programs around the country.
Hollis will run the tie-dye booth during Saturday's festivities and will present Teens 4 Change with the pen Shumlin used to sign the proclamation.
"It's an amazing thing and we should be proud to have this put us on the map as opposed to other things. This year we pressed forward for the youth driven approach," Hollis said. "I'm a firm believer in that I go with the flow and when it was meant to be, it was meant to be. I'm honored to be a part of it and be part of the positive kind of things we want to get out there."
The event is funded by contributions from local businesses and agencies, such as $750 from United Ways of Bennington and $500 from Stewart's Shops Holiday Match program.
Those interested in participating in the basketball tournament should fill out a form and turn it in by May 6 to the BCRC. Forms were distributed to the Mount Anthony Union Middle and High Schools.
Noon: Wild Country Cloggers
12:25 p.m.: Body Combat Demo by Anytime Fitness
1 p.m.: Youth Appreciation Day Address
1:15 p.m.: Immune Friction
2:05 p.m.: Crossover Cloggers
2:40 p.m.: Zumba Demo by Anytime Fitness
3 p.m.: The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm
Community booths and event activities:
SVMC: Three versus three basketball tournament.
Bennington Free Library and John G. McCullough Library: Story time and puppets.
Hilander Bikes: Free bike tune-ups, demos for changing a flat tire on the hour, every hour.
Oral Health Coalition: Free toothbrushes and a toothbrushing activity.
Idea Fund: Inventive game.
United Way: T-shirt tie-dying.
Alliance for Community Transformation: Mother's Day card making.
Second Chance Animal Shelter: Animal therapy.
Planned Parenthood: Bubble blowing.
Catamount BMX: Open house with free track riding.
For more information, visit the Bennington Youth Appreciation Day Facebook page: www.facebook.com/youthappreciationday