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 education. The organization endeavors to make an impact by undertaking projects in schools, such as encouraging curriculum changes, statewide school policy reform, and promoting anti-racism in Vermont’s 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,” the organization said in a statement June 1.
According to survey data VSARN 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,” VSARN stated.
Among VSARN’s current projects is The Book Project, aimed to help educate Kindergarten through 4th Grade students about racism and inclusiveness. The Book Project started off with a $1,000 grant from Vermont Community Foundation (VCF). That money was used to buy 25 sets of five children’s books about racism and inclusiveness. The 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 25 books were purchased from their publishers, except for one set, which Galaxy Books in Hardwick donated to Craftsbury Elementary School.
VSARN students developed lessons and activities for each book with kindergarten teacher Alyssa Lasher and librarian Anne Brabazon.
“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,” VSARN continued.
The group welcomes all schools and Vermont students to get involved. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.