MUHS junior a finalist in State of the Union essay contest

Maisie Newbury, a junior at Middlebury Union High School, last week was named one of 20 finalists in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ eighth annual State of the Union essay contest, which gives Vermont high school students an opportunity to describe which issues they would prioritize if they were president.
This year, 585 students from 47 Vermont high schools submitted 250-500 word essays — more schools than any prior year.
Sanders has invited Newbury and the other finalists to join him for a roundtable discussion at the Statehouse in Montpelier on Saturday, Feb. 10, to discuss the issues they wrote about in their essays.
“I always enjoy speaking with these students about what they would change to make our country a better place,” said Sanders, who serves on the Senate education committee. “We need our students to help find solutions for the problems that face our country. That’s what democracy is all about.”
The winners and finalists will have their essays entered into the Congressional Record — the official archive of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Here is Newbury’s essay:
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (The Great Gatsby, p. 1) This was one of my father’s favorite quotes when I was growing up. He always cautioned me to think before I spoke or better yet, “think before you think.” While some might call this inauthentic, my father called it sensible.
I am not blind to the privilege I possess. Though, living in the big house atop the hill with my two healthy, living parents in the sheltered town of Weybridge, Vermont, it would be an easy thing to forget — if it weren’t for my brother, Robbie.
Robbie does not talk much. He cannot read. He cannot write. He has “Severe, Regressive Autism,” a developmental disorder that inhibits his literacy and communication skills. When I was younger, my parents explained to me that the world looked different to Robbie. It was louder, brighter and so much bigger. Living with Robbie, I am constantly reminded of my privilege. Every time I speak, run, ski, read, write… I’m doing something that he cannot. All the things I do on a daily basis are insurmountable obstacles to him. Yet, even without these luxuries, my brother smiles and laughs — he enjoys his life and his experience because he owns it. No one should be allowed to take that from him.
Yet, my brother’s access to the care he needs has decreased immensely in the last year. His weekly appointments with his occupational therapist, which used to be covered by insurance, are now unaffordable as my parents must continue supporting him in their retirement. Learning this, I was upset. How could something so fundamental be removed from our insurance policy without a second thought?
In our society, mental health challenges are often dismissed as illegitimate and fixable. Words like psycho, idiot and lunatic are thrown around as diminutive insults rather than seen as impactful and potentially harmful. Because of this, mental healthcare is considered a luxury rather than a necessity, and therefore not something that should be covered by insurance.
The union we live in does not value mental healthcare simply because society does not. This issue starts with us. I cannot stay silent and watch my parents sacrifice my brother’s future stability and independence in order to be able to support him in the long run; nor can I do this alone. I know that until society begins placing value on the lives of people like Robbie, no one will — especially not large-scale insurance providers. However, I believe that there are other people like me who, if we band together, can create a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens ready to take on the world. For, unlike my brother, my privilege has given me a voice, and it is my duty to use it to fight for him. I owe him that much.

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