March Retreat: Like-Minded Youth Seeking One-of-a-kind Change

‘What’s the Story?’ has provided me with an incredibly unique learning experience that not only brought me to the limit of my comfort zone, but pushed me past it. Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to work closely with all kinds of people from all walks of life who care about the same issues that I do. I have had the opportunity to hear countless perspectives, ideas and insights on the work I’ve been doing in the forms of interviews, feedback and open-ended conversations. My group is now well on our way to what will (hopefully) be a fantastic end product and that is all thanks to ‘What’s the Story?’

One thing that I didn’t account for when coming into ‘What’s the Story?’ was how eye-opening of an experience it would be. We are all like-minded, intelligent young people in this immersive out-of-classroom experience, but each and every one of us has a unique perspective on the local issues we’re working so hard to bring to light. ‘What’s the Story?’ not only gives us the opportunity to present out own ideas, but hear the ideas of others, which is something we haven’t always gotten in the classroom. I have not only become more educated on my own topic of language and stigma surrounding Vermont mental health-care, but on all the other topics presented in this year’s ‘What’s the Story?’ (male-female gender equality, non-binary gender politics, the dangers of blue-green algae, migrant farm work, education reform, animal cruelty, etc.) I went in expecting my focus to be on only my project and my ideas but it turned out to be so much more than that. In addition to opening my eyes to the complexity of these local issues, my intelligent friends have introduced me to the magic of late-night trivia, the infamous super-villain Old (or three) Mother Hubbard and a completely new side to J.R.R Tolkien’s Gandalf (I don’t know anyone else capable of sexualizing the servant of the secret fire).

What’s more is, before ‘What’s the Story?’ I knew that there were issues with our mental health-care system, but I never dreamed that I could ever make a difference. I was fifteen, 5’4″ and not a particularly-talented public speaker. Now I am sixteen, still 5’4″ and still more-or-less incapable of talking without saying something I don’t mean to, but I know I can make a difference. I have a lot more ground to stand on now and a lot more voices backing me up as my group and I get closer and closer to our final product.

In addition to be eye-opening this experience has allowed me to meet young people seeking change like I am, and who are also a lot of fun to be around. I look forward to overnight retreats so I can spend a weekend having intellectual conversations over the incredible food that is provided for us, playing Anomia by the fire in the Eco-lodge and watching Studio C videos on YouTube with my roommates as we get ready to go to sleep. Of course, it hasn’t all been fun and games. There have been a few late nights of nearly falling asleep at the wheel as I drive myself to the opposite end of the state and back for an interview, frustrations at filmed interviews ruined by bad audio or lighting, and I can’t say that I ever won at Anomia. Needless to say, it’s been a lot of work, but it’s been more than one-hundred-percent worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Any young person who has a taste for change; is tired of the old-fashioned, endless lectures; sees a local issue they care about, wants to make new friends; needs a Social Studies/English credit to graduate high school; wants to learn how to use camera equipment; or even who just wants to learn how to play Anomia and hear some awesome guitar playing (courtesy of the beautiful and musically talented mentors at ‘What’s the Story?’) is someone who should definitely apply to ‘What’s the Story?’ next year. Sure, some reasons are better than others, but I think that any reason you can find is reason enough.

Maisie Newbury

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