Students question Vermont political candidates on the issues

Young Vermonters on Friday pressed candidates on top issues facing the state.
Young Vermonters on Friday pressed candidates on top issues facing the state.(WCAX)
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 12:05 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2022 at 7:26 PM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Candidates seeking Vermont’s highest offices answered a slate of questions on Friday, not from the press or even from registered voters, but from middle-schoolers.

The Williston Central School Candidate Forum is held every election cycle to connect seventh- and eighth-graders to politics and current events.

“Even though we’re not allowed to vote right now, it’s important to be introduced to the world of politics,” student Maya DeLuca said.

Students have been researching the candidates and crafting questions since the beginning of the school year, researching topics from inflation to abortion to opioids and affordability.

Students like Avery Howe, who asked Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gerald Malloy about access to affordable health care.

“My sister had heart surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and I want everybody to have that opportunity to be healthy,” Howe said.

Others asked about concrete steps candidates will take to reduce greenhouse gasses and tackle climate change.

“It’s an important question to me because I love skiing and I’m worried about the snow going away and I don’t want that to happen,” said Avery Antonioli, a seventh-grader.

The forum is aimed at encouraging students to become civically engaged in their communities, read the news, ask questions and attend public forums.

Candidates on both sides of the aisle say the students did their research and asked the right questions.

“Engaging and very refreshing and inspiring actually,” Malloy said.

“They are the ones that in the end are going to be the most impacted by this so it’s important that they engage,” said Brenda Siegel, Democrat for Vermont governor.

Students at Friday’s forum are still years away from being able to vote, but they hope weighing in on the issues and putting them before politicians will bring them to the forefront.

“It’s still important to be learning about the government and what’s going on because these people change the future and we are the future as children,” student Ellie Porter said.

Other students say events like these are already sparking their curiosity about public service.

Reporter Calvin Cutler: Do you think you could see yourself or one of your friends up on this stage someday?

Maddie Deyo/Student: Definitely, I think for some role in Vermont to help the government and to make the world a better place would be good.”