My name is Harmony Belle Devoe, and I am a member of the Vermont State Youth Council.
On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, the youth on the Vermont State Youth Council received an email, telling us that we had been accepted. After a competitive and didactic application process, 28 fifth- to 12th-graders (out of over 200 applications) throughout Vermont were chosen for this council because our stories and beliefs displayed on our applications led the judges to believe that we would make “an impactful addition to the State Youth Council,” according to the acceptance letter I received.
The Vermont State Youth Council is a council of 28 youth, administered by Brianne Smith, who work together to shape a better future for our state. We advise and create recommendations for Vermont's General Assembly and governor, hold public hearings, write legislation, meet with the governor annually, and receive a $50 stipend for each meeting we attend. Governor Phil Scott signed and passed the bill creating this council on May 11, 2022.
We have meetings typically twice a month. We have met once in Montpelier, on December 13, at the Vermont Historical Society Museum, to first meet each other, but the majority of our meetings are held over Zoom, so they are accessible to everyone on the council.
So far, we have had four meetings. We’ve met online with David Englander, senior policy and legal advisor at the Vermont Department of Health, who gave a presentation on the Vermont legislative process and writing and passing a bill. We’ve also been separated into committees we feel passionate about. These committees are; equity and anti-racism, youth voice, climate change and action, education, and youth mental health. These committees were created for the reason of letting the youth on the council specialize in their interests, and so we can work on making change and writing legislation on specific topics. Although, committee topics overlap, we all work together to initiate change in Vermont.
We have also met online with the Senate Committee of Government Operations and told our stories, what is important to us, and why. The people in the Senate let us know who is on what committee in their Senate, and how they would like to help us.
We write legislation regarding all topics, from education and the youth experience in schools, to statewide issues involving everyone. This youth council can give their thoughts, ideas, and opinions on anything the government could help, with a better future for the youth of Vermont in mind.
I applied for the State Youth Council because, as a mixed-race female in Vermont, I want my opinion to be voiced and shared, and I want to create change, and a better future for youth in Vermont.
Being part of this council makes me feel hopeful and inspired to see many youths who care about trailblazing change in our state. I’ve learned that you can do essentially anything, if you are determined and passionate about it.
The Vermont State Youth Council is here to make a positive impact for the future of Vermont, and to represent youths’ opinions.
Devoe is an eighth grader at Harwood and lives in Warren.