BENNINGTON — The Southshire Challenge workforce-education partnership will return for its third year, and will feature some major changes.

In the past, students and businesses have teamed up to complete challenges, such as designing a space for youth in downtown Bennington, or writing a play to be performed at Oldcastle Theatre Company, or designing an informational video for Southwestern Vermont Medical Center on the dangers of sugary drinks. This year, however, students will work with community mentors toward a different goal: Writing legislation designed to answer the question, "How does Vermont retain and attract young people to live and work in Vermont?"

Jeannie Jenkins, who serves as chairwoman of Bennington's Workforce and Education Working Group, which organizes the event every year, said this year's challenge is open to public, private and homeschooled students in grades five through eight from anywhere in Bennington County. After attending the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's staff day last week, the working group had 10 teams sign up, but it is still looking for more.

"Working in teams, students will take on the role of legislators, creating and then presenting their team's bill at a community event in April," said Jenkins, "Each team will have a community mentor who will provide support through the process. All participating students and their teachers are invited to a day at the Vermont State House in the spring. In addition, a resource packet will be available to all participating teams."


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The objectives of this year's challenge are to provide students with an opportunity to understand the legislative process, allow students to discuss a real-life problem facing Vermont, and connect students with Bennington County legislators and community mentors.

Jenkins said the topic was chosen based on some of the following facts and figures: That the number of young people in the county is decreasing, and the overall Vermont population is expected to decrease by 3.5 percent over the next 10-15 years; That many young people leave Vermont to move to big cities with a larger diversity of activities, restaurants, people, and job opportunities; That Vermont's population is one of the oldest in the country and growing older; And that Vermont attracts thousands of new college students to the state but most of them leave after graduation.

Those interested in participating in the challenge can contact Jenkins at 802-447-6948 or by email at jeannie.jenkins@ccv.edu.

Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.