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A New School Year in Vermont


We all struggle to use our time, talents, and treasures to make a difference – and one of the most rewarding ways to do this is, in some informed way, to help others succeed. Our Foundation strategy starts with a family tradition of giving back to the community by collaborating with on-the-ground professionals to help others to reach their full potential. We continue to be guided by a long-term vision of what we wish to pass on to future generations of Vermonters: a vibrant, world-class economy that supports optimal quality of life in Vermont.

Back to school time is a time for hope, optimism, and getting back to business for students and educators. In order to best disperse funds in support of our mission this school year, we and representatives of the Vermont Community Foundation have met with educators, legislators, business leaders, and nonprofits working in their own spheres to guide public education in Vermont toward a more flexible, competency-based model in order to promote the development of a stronger workforce for the good of all our state.

This past year, our goal in this field has been twofold: first, to promote effective collaborative programs and initiatives, and second, to promote communication and collaboration among those currently and potentially doing good work in Vermont.

In a quickly evolving world, we’ve found that listening is a big component of the job description of “funder.” Over the last five years, we’ve met with the strategists and practitioners working on behalf of and directly with students, and we’ve sponsored four annual statewide forums for educators, nonprofits, governmental representatives, and philanthropists to showcase successful models and to encourage future collaborations.

Future plans call for convenings of a more regional nature and for working sessions built around specific tasks or outcomes. We are pleased that our first regional forum, held August 2 in Manchester, was able to showcase the roles of the Community College of Vermont (CCV), the Tutorial Center, and Burr & Burton Academy in promoting workforce development in that region. Philanthropists, legislators, and leaders of Vermont’s higher education institutions raised important questions that will inform our work throughout the next year.

Our next working sessions will focus upon questions such as:

  • How do we expand the horizons of students before they get to high school?
  • How do we promote the wealth of programs already in place via our Career Tech Centers around the state?
  •  How can we enhance life experiences and life skills for younger students in order to stem an alarmingly steady stream of high school students dropping out each year in distinct geographical regions of our state?
  • Community by community, in what specific ways can philanthropy support partnerships between businesses and schools to promote mentorships, internships, and such?

An October event that we’ll co-sponsor with the Community Foundation will be geared towards philanthropists and resource professionals who can help answer these questions in very specific ways. We look forward to this gathering of some of Vermont’s most thoughtful, forward-looking funders to help enhance and accelerate the groundwork and continuing implementation on the part of Vermont professionals and agencies relating to workforce development in the state. The vision that guides us in our work is to “succeed by helping others succeed,” in order to help realize the potential of Vermont’s greatest resource – Vermonters!


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