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Summit Looks For Ways To Attract, Retain Young Professionals In Vermont

Vermont has the nation's second-oldest population, and nearly half of students leave the state for college.

In states like Utah, Michigan and California, more than 90 percent of students who go to college do so in their home state. But in Vermont, nearly half of students go elsewhere for college — and many never come back.

That youth drain is taking a toll on Vermont, which has the second oldest population in the country after Maine.

This Saturday, the Rutland Young Professionals, the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies and Castleton University are teaming up to host the Young Professionals Summit of Vermont to brainstorm ways to attract and retain more young people.

31-year-old Katye Robare Munger says she got tired of hearing that there were no young people in Rutland.

"We heard that often and we've proved that that's not true," Robare Munger says.

The "we" in that sentence refers to the Rutland Young Professionals, a group Robare Munger and several others formed two years ago to help locals in their 20s, 30s and 40s network.

While the group's monthly mixers were popular, Robare Munger says the same questions kept coming up: why were young people leaving Vermont and what could they do about it?

"I mean there are young people here and they are interested in giving back to the community, being engaged with the community and staying here and raising their future families here," she says.

"I mean there are young people here and they are interested in giving back to the community, being engaged with the community and staying here and raising their future families here." - Katye Robare Munger, Rutland Young Professionals

  "We started to have conversations with the other young professional organizations in Vermont, because we're not the only ones and they all are working on that too, so why not bring us all together in one place to have these conversations together."

Nearly 100 people will be at Rutland's Paramount Theatre Saturday identifying the challenges and opportunities for young people in Vermont. They'll listen to speakers, brainstorm and take part in small group workshops.

Congressman Peter Welch and gubernatorial candidates Phil Scott, Shap Smith and Matt Dunne are expected. Other notables include Joan Goldstein, Commissioner of Vermont's Department of Economic Development; Ann Galloway, founder of VT Digger; Eugene Korsunskiy, Coordinator of Design initiatives at UVM and VPR reporter Taylor Dobbs.

Korsunskiy, a 29-year-old recent transplant to Vermont says he's excited by the summit's potential.

"The very act of noticing an issue, admitting an issue and framing it as something that can be solved and then getting heads together to start doing something about it is (a) really powerful step and fills me with optimism that amazing things are possible here," Korsunskiy says.

"Because you have all these people willing to come together and to say, 'we noticed this thing that maybe we don't like. And lets all work together to solve it.'"

37-year old Matt Bloomer, a member of the Rutland Young Professionals as well as a member of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen, says having political leaders and gubernatorial candidates on hand is also a plus.
Bloomer says it's important that policymakers understand the concerns of young Vermonters and address them more vocally during the governor’s race.
Participation in the summit is open to any Vermonter in their 20s, 30s and 40s no matter their field or status of employment. Tickets cost $20.

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