Sanders visits Essex HS to learn from students

Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 3:32 PM EST
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ESSEX JCT., Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders paid a visit to Essex High School Thursday to talk with students and learn from them.

Vermont’s Independent -- and now senior -- senator got a warm welcome as he spent some time with Essex students. “We are the only major country on Earth -- many of you don’t know this -- the only major country not to guarantee health care to all people as a human right,” Sanders said.

He kicked off the town-hall-style assembly by addressing his biggest talking points -- universal health care, affordable education, and gun reform. But Sanders says he does these events mostly to hear what students have to say.

“My question is -- what is your plan to retain young Vermonters by making college and housing affordable?” asked one student.

Sanders fielded a handful of questions from the crowd, lingering on the topic of stress, mental health, and addiction. For many of these students, that addiction comes in the form of nicotine.

“I guess if you ask me what surprised me the most, is the number of kids who raised their hands about vaping,” Sanders said.

While it was a hot topic for the senator, students we spoke to say other topics were more impactful to them, including the Center for Technology Essex. Luca Karki, a junior, says he’s concerned about affordable education. “It’s pretty inspiring, I think, as someone who wants to do things. And as a forester -- I’d like to be a forester -- and it’s nice to know that he’s here to support us,” Karki said.

Madeleine Ahmadi, a senior, says she was interested in hearing about gun violence prevention. But as a student journalist, she looked forward to pressing the senator with questions. “I think a highlight of my young journalism career. I was so grateful for the opportunity and it was so valuable,” she said.

A valuable experience for students and Vermont’s now senior senator. “These young people are the future of America, how do you not listen to them? How do you not listen to the teachers that are with them every day on the front lines, of the problems? How do you not talk to their parents? I enjoy doing these things immensely and I hope I learn from them,” Sanders said.

As chair of the Senate Health Committee, Sanders says he’s looking to focus on imbalances in the pharmaceutical industry as well as lowering drug prices.