BENNINGTON -- The second-annual Youth Appreciation Day at Willow Park brought together community leaders and organizations on Saturday to display the value youth have to the Bennington community.

Last year, a group of students from the Career Development Center pre-law class at Mount Anthony Union High School drafted a Youth Appreciation Day Proclamation and sent it to the Vermont House of Representatives. The proclamation of an annual day honoring youth passed in House Concurrent Resolution 127, and declared April 27, 2013 Youth Appreciation Day.

Like 2013, this year's celebration was in conjunction with Green-Up Day in Vermont. Americorps VISTA member from Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Rachel Shindler, said that they didn't put kids to work picking up garbage this year, but to make it a fun day for them.

"Lately there has been a lot of (negative) press about Bennington, and people have been bringing up that we really need to give our youth something to do and engage our youth in the community," Shindler said. "This is really a way we can do that and show our appreciation for them.

Americorps collaborated with Teens for Change, UCS, Alliance for Community Transformations, the Center for Restorative Justice, among others to attract children to the event, and set up booths and activities.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center was the title sponsor for the event and provided free food for the day. Among many youth performers, musicians and instructors from Bennington College, Michael Wimberly and Jackie Alpine provided music.


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"Youth in Bennington: They're actors, they're dancers, they're athletes, they volunteer at Garlic Fest, the car show and May Fest," said Selectman Michael Keane. "They are a part of our daily lives, and I think this is one way of supporting what they do: Letting them be the example for other youth. That for me is what this is all about."

Keane said it's good to have one single day that you have to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate people, just like Mother's Day or Father's Day. "It to me is a part of what this town's spirit is about: Acknowledging the accomplishments and activities of people," he said.

The 2013 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey asked students whether or not they think the community values them. The survey results found that only 50 percent of students that participated agreed that the community did.

"That was one of our huge debates for putting on this event," Shindler said. "I think it's a chance for community leaders and organizations to step up and show youth that they do value them."

View the latest survey results at http://healthvermont.gov/research/yrbs.aspx. Read the Youth Appreciation Day proclomation at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/ docs/2014/resolutn/HCR127.pdf.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.