NEK Day at the Statehouse goes virtual this year, public invited

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Anyone who lives in the Northeast Kingdom is invited to NEK Day at the Statehouse on Friday, January 29 starting at noon.

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This event is a chance to connect virtually with legislators and other NEKers to celebrate the region, share priorities, and learn what’s been happening at the state level.

The event will look different this year as the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative (NEKC) has been hosting virtual events since March.

“It’s unbelievable the way these towns have stepped up to support their neighbors in a time of crisis,” says NEKC Interim Director Tom Lovett. “It proves what many of us who live here already knew: Rural Vermonters are resilient and innovative, they look out for each other.”

But the region still suffers from disproportionate funding and policies that perpetuate insufficient access to broadband, housing, education, and business support.

Because of this, the three counties that make up the NEK have the lowest household income and the highest high school dropout rate.

The population is shrinking and the median age is the highest in the state.

The Northeast Kingdom Collaborative has been working with people and organizations within the region to address its systemic challenges.

The NEKC strives to bring people together across sectors, politics, and backgrounds, with a special focus on elevating the voices of those historically underrepresented.

Convening at the local, regional, and statewide levels, the organization develops action plans, builds leadership capacity, and connects those leaders and their projects with the resources they need to succeed.

An independent convener, they serve the unified voices of the region by reflecting the needs and interests of the communities it serves.

The event hosted by the NEKC on January 29 at noon is open to all NEK residents.

It’s a rare opportunity to connect directly with the legislators who represent the region, and the more who show up, the greater the impact.

“We want to hear from rural Vermonters,” said Katherine Sims, State Representative for Orleans-Caledonia. “We want authentic reflections from the people who live in the places we serve about what’s working and what the gaps are.”

As town-level response efforts ramped up following the spread of COVID-19, the NEKC began facilitating weekly region-wide convenings to get a sense of what the NEK needed for recovery.

With the help of sector-specific task forces, they published the NEK Recovery Action Plan, which outlines specific strategies for recovery in five priority areas, including broadband, housing, education, business support, and community vitality.

The recently-updated plan will be the platform for this year’s NEK Day at the Statehouse.

Regional leaders in each of five priority areas are slotted to address legislators with specific calls to action in terms of policies and funding.

“We anticipate this will be the most well-attended NEK Day yet,” says NEKC Communications Director, Carey Crozier. “People can just hop onto Zoom during their lunch breaks and show up for the NEK.”

The one-hour event will be broken up into small, interactive groups so that people can connect with each other.

“This is our chance to make the case for the Kingdom,” says Lovett.

For more information or to learn more and RSVP at www.nekcollaborative.org/news-1/nek-day-2021

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