BRATTLEBORO — It was clear from the start that the Governor’s Institute was going to be successful in filling a gap in arts education that was perceived when the institute started 30 years ago.
In 1982 Vermont’s Commissioner of Education and the Director of the Vermont Art’s Council recognized a deficiency in arts education, and the following year then-Gov. Richard Snelling helped establish the Governor’s Institute.
Thirty years and nearly 10,000 students later, staff from The Governor’s Institute of Vermont visited the School for International Training to talk about a new report that highlights the institute’s work, as well as to recognize the role SIT has played in supporting and helping to grow the organization.
Every year about 550 Vermont high school students take part in residential institutes that focus on the arts, engineering, science, math, Asian cultures, current issues and technology. They spend a few weeks at one of nine programs, located on college campuses around the state, with other students and college and high school teachers.
At the School for International Training on Feb. 27, GIV staff talked about the new study and recognized SIT professor John Ungerleider who started the Institutes in Current Issues & Youth Activism in 1985. Ungerleider started the institute at SIT the same year a science and technology institute began at University of Vermont.
“We knew pretty early on that this was a model that really worked,” Ungerleider said. “The kids were excited about it, and the faculty was excited about it.
Since starting the Institutes in Current Issues & Youth Activism in 1985, Ungerleider said SIT has used a similar model to start its own programs with students from all over the world. SIT brings youth from areas such as Israel and Palestine, from Northern Ireland, and from Turkey and Cypriot to work together and build relationships.
“The students that come here say they learn more in a few weeks than they learn during a whole semester in high school. We treat them like adults when they are here, and they respond to that,” Ungerleider said. “We want leaders who work together to resolve conflict, and that’s what we work on.”
“The Governor’s Institute on the Arts was created 30 years ago to provide young people with depth of study in the arts beyond what was then available in Vermont’s high schools,” said Governor’s Institute of Vermont Executive Director Karen Taylor Mitchell. “It was soon realized that the Governor’s Institute model could fill other curricular gaps and John Ungerleider stepped forward to create a place where students with an interest in social and global perspectives could gather and immerse themselves with their peers. With over 1,000 alumni now, the legacy he’s built is pretty amazing.”
Taylor Mitchell also talked about the report that was released earlier this week at an event in Montpelier attended by Gov. Peter Shumlin. Taylor Mitchell said the organization wanted to do a long-range study to both celebrate what the institute has accomplished in 30 years, as well as to find ways to improve the program as it moves forward.
“We asked 30 years’ worth of alumni what they saw as lasting impacts of their GIV participation,” Taylor Mitchell said. “Based on the stories that graduates and parents have told us, we have known anecdotally for 30 years that GIV is producing powerful outcomes. What this report does is demonstrate that those outcomes are even more influential over time than we previously recognized, and it provides a working model for educators seeking to implement some of the most effective aspects in the schools.”
Speaking with former GIV attendees who are now 20 and 30 years removed from their experience on the Vermont campuses as a high school student, the study found that 88 percent named the Governor’s Institute as one of the most important experiences of their high school years.
About 86 percent of the alumni questioned also said the institute changed their self-confidence and 82 percent said it helped their self-esteem.
“We expected great feedback in the academic arena but we didn’t know we’d also get such strong results in the personal, social and career arenas,” Taylor Mitchell said. “After all, these folks had been out of GIV in most cases for a decade or more. What we learned was that GIV is one of the best educational investments that the Vermont Legislature makes.”
The full report is available at www.giv.org/givat30.