Students help group turn advocacy into song

Students who met an education nonprofit’s challenge to produce and deliver a song about a new law were honored with a resolution in the Vermont House on Wednesday.

Act 77
Grace Ecklund Gustavson, a student from U-32 in East Montpelier, speaks Wednesday at a Statehouse event honoring young Vermonters for their song about Act 77. Photo by Tiffany Danitz Pache/VTDigger
“I believe that Act 77 gives us a reason to care about our learning and a way to apply our passions to our education,” Grace Ecklund Gustavson, a student at U-32 High School in East Montpelier who helped write and perform the song, said at a news conference.

Act 77, also known as the flexible pathways initiative, inspired the song “Our Time,” written by students from 12 high schools. Cabot music teacher Brian Boyes teamed up with the youths to write and perform the song, as did UP for Learning, an education nonprofit that promotes and helps implement the law.

Boyes said the project was an excellent example of what is in Act 77.

“Through this exploration we applied an increasing depth of understanding to write the song, work as a team, work side-by-side with adult experts who excel in their field,” he said, adding that the students gained a deeper sense of themselves in the process.

“This music showed me an outlet that I want to focus on in my life. I can see myself in a different lens,” said Dorothy Whelan, a junior at Lyndon Institute, who said she has attended four high schools. “I’m a black female. I’m proud of it. I’m educated and I’m going to make change wherever I go.”

Twinfield Union School student Asa Bernatchy said she struggled with a learning disability that was only discovered in fifth grade. The personalized learning options offered in Act 77 allowed her to create her own program of study.

“As a child I beat myself up thinking I was not smart enough. It was hard coming into high school, but having the opportunity to learn diversely made me understand that I can achieve what I want in high school because I am smart,” she told lawmakers on the House Education Committee.

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Tiffany Danitz Pache

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