Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders held a virtual Town Hall this week with students across Vermont to discuss the challenges they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Town Hall titled “Coping During COVID: How Students are Handling the Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic” brought students online to discuss the social and mental health challenges they have encountered due to social distancing and hybrid schooling over the past year.
Brattleboro Union High School senior Iva Armour-Jones said the pandemic’s impact on student mental health is her greatest concern. “I find that a lot of the mental health issues that I and my peers have faced have been exacerbated not just by the isolation and uncertainty of this time but by the continued rigor and pace of our education and lives with limited mental health resources. And I think a lot of the world slowed down while our school work sped up. And I feel like in some cases there’s been a failure to acknowledge the mental suffering of our generation and how that has undeniably caused so many of us to feel overwhelmed and at times even hopeless.”
Dustin Beloin attends North Country Career Center and said the pandemic has stalled educational opportunities. “This generation has lost what will probably be close to one and a half years of real education in the school. And I feel since the beginning of the pandemic I have not learned anything new but just been retaining what I have learned before. And it’s a struggle for students to learn new things in this time especially when they need help or hands-on working. The past is the past but we need to focus on now and what we can do and help students gain back what they missed.”
A caller asked what actions could be taken to make positive changes for students. One suggestion was summer job opportunities; Senator Sanders wanted more student input. “Would some of you or your friends take advantage of job opportunities being made available? Lucas?”
Lucas Whitaker: “Thank you Senator. Yes I do believe that that would be a greatly appreciated opportunity by many students. I for one am very late saving money for college and some people might even need that money to support themselves and unfortunately their families as well.”
Carson Gordon: “What I was thinking is normally during the school year colleges will come to our guidance counselors’ offices. So maybe over the summer we have some kind of program where underclassmen can explore college opportunities that they missed this year.”
Sanders: “That is a great idea.”
According to Senator Sanders’ office about 500 Vermont students joined the virtual meeting and an additional 163,000 people viewed the live stream.