Heather Robertson was blown away at the resourcefulness and community-minded spirit of the fellow motorist.
The organizer of the 2016 Vermont Young Professionals Summit told the packed Paramount Theater that she and her partner, Castleton University communication Professor Michael Talbott, were driving down a rural road on one of their first days in Vermont when they came upon a tree that had fallen in the road.
They came to a stop, and decided to turn around. However, the person who was driving the car behind them got out of their car, and began to move the tree from the road. She was blown away by this simple act, claiming that everywhere she had lived before, there was a pervasive attitude that someone else will solve the problems facing the people who live there.
“It’s that spirit that makes Vermont amazing,” the Los Angeles native said.
Before her introduction, after registration closed and all of the free coffee had been guzzled down, the crowd of Vermonters was ushered into the theater. Soon attendees were told that by showing the same character traits as the motorist that Robertson met, they would be able to solve problems facing Vermont in the future.
Some of the problems discussed included a lack of employees to fill new jobs over the next 10 years, a need for the revitalization of communities across the state, and how to combat the high cost of living in the state.
Congressman Peter Welch was then welcomed to the stage and reiterated the message Robertson had explained through her story.
Welch told the audience that solutions to Vermont’s problems may not come easy, but with ingenuity and by working together “there is no challenge that Vermonters will not be ready to meet.”
Over the course of the day, the summit hosted eight breakout sessions organized into two different time slots all over Downtown Rutland. These sessions took place at Castleton Downtown, the Rutland Free Library, Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center and the Paramount Theater.
This format was a change from the previous year, where all of the attendees remained in the theater and worked in small groups.
Emma Blaiklock, Castleton University Student Government Association’s vice president of Community Relations, said the summit was well worth attending for Castleton students.
“This event is an amazing opportunity for young professionals around the state to come to Rutland and network as well as begin brainstorming for implementing change for our amazing state,” she said. “Having Castleton Students … at the event is important in helping to get a better understanding of why young people, specifically professionals, are leaving the state. Having those insights and potentially setting them up to network and meet someone who they could potentially connect with, on a personal or career level, could help to hold more people in this area after they graduate.”
Student Government Association Tyler Anderson also attended the event this year, and was a volunteer at last year's event. He said it offers a great starting point for Castleton students to get involved with their community.
“There are more problems in the world than those that we experience at Castleton,” he said. “By looking at and learning about those issues, we can start to find ways to solve them.”
Anderson also said that because of our recent expansion into Rutland “the problems facing Rutland are something that we need to be looking at as Castleton and helping create solutions to those issues.”
Anderson did feel, however, that the format for this year’s event was a little less effective than the previous one. This year, the sessions welcomed discussion, but larger groups meant fewer people had the chance to speak and be heard. And the afternoon session he attended with others was almost a pure lecture with a chance for questions at the end.
“I feel like I got more out of last year’s (format), because I was directly with people…. Last year there were smaller group settings, which I thought was nice. It was still a great event, I just feel like the conversation didn’t move as fast.”
For more information on young professionals activities locally, check out rutlandyoungprofessionals.org.