by Joshua Jerome
Revitalizing downtowns is challenging work and requires significant investment of financial and human capital from municipal governments and community organizations. It also requires citizen participation by serving on committees and boards. As Barre’s downtown organization, the Barre Partnership relies heavily on citizen participation and for one particular board member, Randi Dudley, this time of year gets her a little anxious. The reason why? She’s going to be a junior at Spaulding High School.
Dudley has lived in Barre her whole life and last year she attended the Hoby Leadership Seminar which brings sophomores from around Vermont together to recognize their leadership talents and encourage them to become involved in their community. At the same time the partnership’s board was looking to connect Spaulding High School to downtown and a search for a student who was interested in serving on our board commenced. Dudley left the conference feeling an urge to become more involved and through a vetting process with the school, she learned of our organization.
I asked Dudley how important the community was to her and she said that “many friends work downtown and we all feel like a part of the vibrancy of downtown.” Dudley is also active with student council and helped to organize Spaulding High School’s participation in the Heritage Festival. A small and dedicated contingent of students built a carnival-like dart game, marched in the parade and volunteered to set up chairs, signs and more. But it’s not just doing work in the community that Randi enjoys. She’s also active in sports and admittedly is a little nervous about the soccer tryouts coming up.
She went to soccer camp at Vermont Technical College and explained to me how nice her Serbian coaches were and is looking forward to using the skills learned at camp to better her chances during tryouts. I wasn’t surprised that when we talked about academics she exuded enthusiasm for her class schedule. A schedule she described as “what I want to take” instead of “what they make me take.” And what are the classes she’s most excited about? Anatomy and pre-calculus. The shear phrase “pre-calculus” brought flashbacks of a nightmare I suffered for over a decade after high school where I find out I’m not graduating the last day of school because I didn’t go to math class all year.
Of course, Randi was also excited to do some back to school shopping for clothing and school supplies and to see several teachers she had last year. Randi also has just recently started working at Bragg Farm serving creemees and packaging up candies and fudge and looks forward to having a little extra money to spend at the businesses downtown. One of the highlights this past summer was getting two little kittens who were named Daisy and Duke. However, Daisy turned out to be a male, so he was renamed to Beau.
The kind of enthusiasm that Randi possesses for making a difference in the community is special. She is like many juniors who worry about “making the team,” but also carries herself with the type of confidence that our future leaders need to possess. She is able to listen to opposing viewpoints and carefully consider their arguments before interjecting her opinion. This is surely a quality that is lacking in our current body politic. The Partnership board and myself are delighted to have such an engaging young individual participating in the process of downtown revitalization because it takes more than one demographic to do this work. I for one am excited for the school year to start also, so I can watch one of our young leaders grow and provide strong evidence that community support is still vibrant.
The writer is executive director of The Barre Partnership