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Root: Pulse of Vt in Waitsfield and Hancock

08/13/12 7:55AM By Tik Root
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(Host) Earlier this year, as part of a digital storytelling class, Middlebury College students Tik Root of Ripton, and Paul Rosenfeld of Saint Louis, decided to travel the length of Vermont's Route 100 - stopping to meet people and learn about life in contemporary Vermont. Their first stop was the Hubbard Store in Hancock, where they met co-owner Christine Farr. her daughter, Marissa.

(Root) Marissa and her two older bothers live a mere two-minute walk from the elementary school, so close their mother could watch them walk to school from the kitchen window. It was a two-room school-house for kindergarten through 6th grade with a grand total of about 40 students.

(Marissa) It was fun at first because of all the kids, kickball and stuff, but then as you get like, a little older, probably more like 6th grade, there's nothing to do ever. All you ever want to do is not be there. But you're too young to drive.

(Root) Marissa says that when it comes time to pick a college, it likely won't be in Vermont. Now, she attends Harwood Union High School in Duxbury, a one-hour commute from her house each way, and most of her friends live in Warren and Waitsfield. So these days, she views Hancock in a different light.

(Marissa) Not to stereotype or anything but in Hancock I see PBR drinkers, kind of farming, not gonna lie, Red Necky, then here it's either the high end or the hippies.

(Root) Last August, Tropical Storm Irene did serious damage to Hancock. Getting in and out of town was nearly impossible. But Marissa and her brother still managed to make the roughly 15-mile journey to Warren to see their friends.

(Marissa) On the second day when things finally dried up, I was going crazy. I could not just stay in Hancock anymore. I ended up walking to Warren , to hang out with some friends, because I was like "I'm not doing this." It was funny because we got a few rides in the back of people's trucks where the road was working. And then we just had to crawl down into the broken bridges and stuff. But it probably took us a good four hours to actually get back from start to finish.

(Root) But Marissa says the toughest part about being a teenager in Hancock, is the lack of technology.

(Marissa) That is THE most frustrating thing probably, because every time we're told, we're going to get internet or told we're going to get cell phone service, it doesn't happen. My mom doesn't even bother having Internet at our house, because she's like "we don't need it." And it was terrible at first, and all my friends had it and I didn't. But then, I just got used to it, so now I don't mind living in the past.

(Root) But for Marissa, the future is a different story, and if she leaves Vermont for college, there's a distinct possibility that she'll only come back for visits. Many Vermont policy makers say that losing Vermont 's young people is a problem that may threaten the future vitality of the state. This includes former Governor Jim Douglas, who thinks that changing demographics may be the biggest challenge Vermont faces. And if our conversation with Marissa is any indication, he could be right.

Taking the pulse of Vermont along Route 100, I'm Tik Root.

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