During the week of October 14th, two strands of youth leadership that span the Atlantic merged for an informational and cultural exchange. Two visitors from Finland were invited by Vermont Afterschool as part of an ongoing international partnership: Vivian Ljungqvist, the student head of the Helsinki Youth Council and Johanna Laukkanen, a youth worker supporting Ruuti within Helsinki Youth Services. Throughout the week, they visited programs and met professionals from across third space fields and also spent an entire day helping train youth council members from across the state.
These councils represented the sites of the 2019-2020 Youth4Youth Grants, a participatory budgeting (PB) grant program of Vermont Afterschool. Located across the state, each of the seven councils is tasked with forming a process to solicit ideas, have their community vote of them, and implement the most popular projects using the $3000 they were granted. Sites are receiving ongoing training and coaching, but the October event in Bethel was a perfect way to kick off the process and learn a lot from Vivi and Johanna, especially given their expertise in implementing a city-wide PB process for youth in Helsinki.
Many of the youth council members reported being inspired and excited by the work that is going on in Finland and Vivi and Johanna were very happy to see the progress Vermont is making PB and youth leadership in general. The youth councils continue to design their own process and will have funded projects by the end of the school year.