The Vermont Student Anti-racism Network (VSARN) is a youth-led group founded last summer to bring a diverse group of students together from around the state to advocate for anti-racist educations. We endeavor to make an impact by undertaking projects in schools, such as encouraging curriculum changes, statewide school policy reform, and promoting anti-racism in our K-12 schools. It is important for kids to be aware of racism at a young age especially in Vermont; with only 5.8% of the population being nonwhite it is easy for race to be overlooked in school curriculum, but racism affects everyone.
According to survey data we collected from over 200 current high school students in Vermont, 78.5% of Vermonters believe they did not receive a substantial elementary school education on race and racism. Furthermore, only 16% of Vermonters believed that they had beneficial conversations on racism in school and only 26% of students said that the characters in their elementary school classroom books had diverse representation. These results propelled us to action.
One of our current projects is helping to educate kindergarten through 4th grade students about racism and inclusion in school systems throughout Vermont. The Book Project started off with a $1,000 grant from Vermont Community Foundation (VCF). That money was used to buy 25 sets of 5 different children’s books about racism and inclusion. Our books include the following:
- My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III
- Ambitious Girl by Meena Harris
- A Kids Book about Racism by Jelani Memory
- The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
- The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
All twenty-five books were purchased from their publishers, except for one set, which Galaxy Books in Hardwick generously donated to Craftsbury Elementary School. A huge thanks to Galaxy Books for the donation! VSARN students developed lessons and activities for each book with Kindergarten teacher Alyssa Lasher and librarian Anne Brabazon. In April we did a pilot in Ms. Lasher’s kindergarten class in Hinesburg using the book My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III. We have done a variety of lessons since, and are excited to continue the project until the summer and hopefully beyond.
One parent from The Oak Grove school followed up after a lesson to “Thank the kids who came to class to teach today for helping contextualize racism for the first graders.”
As we continue this project, we hope to help young minds develop anti-racist beliefs that they will carry with them through life. We believe that we need to start at the youngest age to promote anti-racism in our youth; raising anti-racist youth is the route to changing society.
We’d welcome any schools to get involved. Teachers or school staff please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Immediate Release
June 1, 2021
Vt Student Anti-Racism Network