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Vermont's Winter State Sport




Here is the 5 year timeline of how a group of students changed history.alt

2007 Burlington Free Press, Thursday, December 20, Section B, Vermont, P. 1, “Snowboarding proposal rests on slippery slope”, Ed Shamy. At the urging of Swanton grade-schoolers, Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin) sponsors a bill that would make snowboarding the official state sport of Vermont. According to Shamy, “This proposal will be as popular in some Vermont quarters as the government seizure of all private property.”

“Collins, a 65-year-old retired school administrator, is not the type to throw this sort of Molotov cocktail into the Montpelier campfire. He’s hoisting the banner of snow-boarding to be true to a band of Swanton constituents – a group of fifth- and sixth-graders from the town’s elementary school.” “They took him up on a standing invite to suggest legislation. He grilled them on their choice, warning it would cause some to bare their fangs.”

“They stood by their choice and they told me why,” he said. They backed their snowboarding pitch with research, illustrating Vermont’s pivotal role in the sport’s growth.”

“Collins sat with them as they discussed their wishes via phone with an attorney who drafted the bill; he marveled when they marked up the draft to reflect some of the nuances they wanted to emphasize.”

“And so a group of young Vermonters prepares to learn just how easy it is to pick a fight in laid-back Vermont.”

2008 Burlington Free Press, Wednesday, February 20, Section B, Vermont, P. 1, “Students ride snowboard proposal”, Terri Hallenbeck.

altTeacher Greg Carpenter (Carpenter is in photo to left with Governor Shumlin), students Jocelyn Shusda, Myriam Bouti and 15 others travel to Montpelier to present testimony to persuade legislators to vote snowboarding in as Vermont state sport.

The students’ testimony “was part of a lesson in civics, persuasive writing and physical education all wrapped into one…”

Sixth-grader Jocelyn Shusda “sat before the Senate Education Committee and laid out her case: ‘Snowboarding is the best fit for the criteria for choosing a Vermont state sport,’ she said. Elevating the sport’s status would increase the amount of money coming into the state from snowboarders, would encourage people to be active and would be unique – no other state has laid claim to the sport, she said.”

            “Myriam Bouti spelled out snowboarding’s links to Vermont, including Jake Burton Carpenter’s ground-breaking snowboard manufacturing and the trend-setting status of Suicide Six in Pomfret as the first slope to allow snowboarding.”

            The students faced opposition and counter-testimony from Parker Riehle, President of Vermont Ski Areas Association who “had done his homework, too. … He suggested that skiing and snowboarding should share the official state sport.”

            “The students received another lesson in politics when they made their case to Gov. Jim Douglas. …. ‘We’ll think about it,’ he said.” “Douglas’ spokesman Jason Gibbs is an avid snowboarder. ‘It definitely rocks,’ he said, but when it comes to legislation he was more cautious. “There are so many exciting recreational opportunities in Vermont that it would be very, very difficult to identify just one.”

2008 St. Albans Messenger, Wednesday, February 20, front page

“Swanton Central kids lobby Senate to make snowboarding official state sport of Vermont”, Dave Gram.

Katie Cleary, Myriam Bouti, Jocelyn Shusda, Rachel Greenia, Alex Benckert and Michael Wilks testified at the Senate Education Committee to support their idea to make snowboarding the official Vermont state sport; point to Vermont’s unique role in developing the sport.

            “Sen. Harold Giard says he was skeptical when he first saw the bill on the agenda of the Senate Education Committee … but, ‘I think they really did their homework and gave us the facts to back it,’ he said.” The kids’ criteria: “The sport had to be something Vermont had played a unique role in developing…” and “presented the litany about Burton Snowboards and about Vermont’s stars of the sport like Ross Powers, Hannah Teeter, and Lindsay Jacobellis.”

            “The choice is clear,” said one of the students, “Snowboarding should be the official state sport of Vermont.”

            “Parker Riehle, President of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, commended the students on their research and acknowledged that snowboarding had become a huge activity as his association’s member resorts, particularly among younger visitors. But he urged that Vermont adopt two official state sports: skiing and snowboarding.
            “This didn’t fly with the kids, who testified that NH beat VT to the punch on skiing a decade ago” and… “it wouldn’t make us unique.”

2008 St. Albans Messenger, Wednesday, February 20, 2008, p. 4, Opinion page, “Swanton students and their potential slide into history?” by Emerson Lynn.

            “…They should… know that causes are not won simply, or easily. And, as they have learned, it’s necessary not only to learn how to overcome objection, but to learn how to break the inertia that prevents anything from being done. Ever. That’s the harder task.”

            “They should be encouraged to continue. We’re proud they’ve taken the initiative, and we’re sure their school and parents are as well.”

2008 Burlington Free Press, Thursday, February 21, p. 6A, Opinion page, Voice of the Free Press, “Learning to be heard above Statehouse din”, discusses the importance of “…critical civics lessons we all need to learn …” as the children press on with their request.

            “Some people might argue that legislators have more pressing business than to consider naming an official state sport. Others might see giving time to 11- and 12-year-olds as yet another sign of lawmakers’ diverting their attention from the critical issues that face the state. But to see allowing children to make their case before the Legislature as a waste of time is to miss the point.”

            “You don’t have to look hard to find evidence that what our participatory democracy lacks is participation. There is no better way to encourage participation than to begin building that habit at an early age. More voters will turn out at the polls when they think their voice matters. More people take an active interest in their government when they feel they can make a difference.”

            “In order to carry out the people’s will in working to solve those big problems, more people need to learn how to present their case so they can be heard above the din in Statehouse hallways crowded with paid lobbyists.”

            “The critical civic lessons we all need to learn are the importance of taking part in our government and, being heard before the Legislature. It is times like these that the Statehouse in Montpelier truly earns the title of the ‘People’s House’.”

2012 Seven Days, May 14-21, Week in Review, P. 5, “Snow Job”.

Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law that makes “skiing” and “riding” official state sports. He signed the bill at the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.

2012 St. Albans Messenger, Friday, March 9, front page

“Students give sports a lift”

“Gov. signs law recognizing skiing and snowboarding” at Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum , by Michelle Monroe.

Project took 5 years – research in grade 5; working on language of the bill in grade 6; passed Senate in 2008 but never made it through the House until this year. When Sen. Collins left the legislature, Rep. Michel Consejo (D-Sheldon) re-introduced the bill.

            “This is an example of what’s so great about democracy in Vermont,” said Shumlin. “We get our kids involved early.”

            “The students began researching possible state sports in the fifth grade at Swanton Elementary School. … In sixth grade, the students began working on the language of the bill. … Then Franklin County state senator Don Collins sponsored the bill, and six of the students testified before a Senate hearing about their proposal.”

            “The ski industry, however, felt skiing should be included. Both skiing and snowboarding are vitally important to Vermont’s ski industry, said Parker Riehle, president of the Vermont Ski Areas Association.

            “Although Vermont is known as the place where snowboarding began in North America, the state also was the site of a number of firsts in skiing, including the first rope tow and the first ski patrol, said Riehle.”

            “The bill first passed the Senate in 2008, but never made it through the Vermont House. When Collins left the legislature, Rep. Michel Consejo, D-Sheldon and Swanton, took up the task of introducing and re-introducing the bill.

            “It passed this year, said Consejo, because the ski industry needed a boost as a result of the warm winter. The most valuable part of the process is the lesson the students learned about the value of persistence, in Consejo’s view. ‘You need to be persistent. Things don’t change so easily,’ said Consejo.”

            “The fifth graders who originally proposed the bill are now sophomores at Missisquoi Valley Union High School.”

2012 St. Albans Messenger, Friday, March 9, Opinions, P. 4A

“They ignored the naysayers and made history”, by Emerson Lynn. “Learning about the legislative process, however, is also learning about patience and perseverance. And compromise.”

            “…four years ago, the grand effort began. The (students) learned the correct legislative forms to follow… they found representatives to sponsor their proposal. In February, 2008 they had the good fortune to appear before the Senate Education Committee… They were on a roll.”

            “Then, however, the tricks became a little more difficult to perform…. Declaring favoritism to one sport had its political downside.”

            But, “They kept the idea alive… they learned the value of compromise. They agreed to share the distinction with skiers. The designated sports of Vermont are snowboarding AND skiing.”

            “Vermont has its designated sport(s) because a group of Swanton middle- schoolers believed in their idea and were tenacious enough not to let it wither away.”

            “More to the point, it’s a lesson for us all. Change is something ever present and it presents oceans of possibilities. Opportunity for change is there for us all…”

            “They’ve made us proud.”

2012 Burlington Free Press, Friday, March 9, Section B, Vermont, P. 1 alt

“Snowsports rule in Vermont” by Lisa Rathke.

“Students’ initiative leads to skiing, riding becoming state sports.”

            “Thanks to school-children, skiing and riding are now the official winter sports of Vermont, where the two disciplines have a strong legacy.”

            “The idea was proposed by a group of fifth- and sixth-graders from Swanton four years ago… With the help of teachers and legislators, the children brought their idea to the Statehouse where they testified before the state Senate. The measure won final approval last month.”

2012 USA Today, Friday, March 9, p. 5A, “Across the USA – News from every state”, “Vermont: Stowe – Gov. Shumlin signed a law today that makes skiing and snowboarding the official state sports of Vermont. The measure first was suggested by a group of fifth and sixth graders from Swanton, who testified on behalf of their proposal in the Legislature.”

2012 County Courier, March 15, P. 4

“Dude! Let’s get a new law!” by Ed Shamy.

            “Some years ago, by way of introducing some children from Swanton Elementary School to civics, then-state Sen. Don Collins helped them craft a proposed bill that would make snowboarding the official sport of Vermont.…A lot happens, though, on the winding path between Swanton Elementary School and the statehouse in Montpelier. … The snowboarding bill went nowhere in 2008 and nowhere in 2009 and 2010. … This year, as a butterfly emerges from a chrysallis, a new bill emerged. Skiing and snowboarding were jointly named, not as the official Vermont state sport(s), but as the official WINTER sports.”

            “Nothing is as simple as it seems, kids. Get used to it.”

2012 Seven Days, May 2-9, “Fair Game,” P. 12, “Law and Disorder” by Andy Bromage. “Skiing and snowboarding are now Vermont’s official winter sports. Better luck next time, curlers!”

2012 Stowe Reporter, Thursday, March 15, by Nathan Burgess. “Skiing, riding now official state sports”.

The Museum is proud to have a digital archive of the students research and preparatory work. Here is some of the Students Research and Argument Preparation: