Maroni Minter was born and raised in the central African country of Gabon, where villagers hunted and raised crops for food, kerosene lamps lit the dark, and children benefited from a culture of communal parenting, where adults cared for every child as their own. It was a poor but happy and peaceful existence. But that was only part of his story, the part he shared with his mother.
His father — a Peace Corps volunteer at the time he and his mother met — had returned to America when Maroni was 3, after his parents parted ways. What would life be like in America, Maroni often wondered. In 2004, at age 16, he decided to find out. With a ticket purchased by his father, he boarded a plane and came to Vermont to live with his dad and his stepfamily. He enrolled in the local high school, learned English and adjusted to a new culture and climate — even taking up snowboarding. After earning his diploma, at age 21 he decided his next step would be Johnson State College.
“I chose JSC because it was one of the most affordable options, and it was close to home — plus I still felt ‘new’ here and didn’t want to migrate too far from my comfort zone,” he explains. “It was the right choice for me because the small size meant I had access to professors and to support. It’s a very close and tight-knit community. If that’s what you want, you’ll find it here,” he adds.
Maroni had a rough first year at JSC, but by his sophomore year things started falling into place. He reached out for help from Academic Support (he heaps praise on the staff and calls Carolyn D’Luz “the nicest lady I’ve ever met”), discovered a passion for political science and connected with longtime senator and JSC professor Bill Doyle. That led to an auspicious internship at the Vermont State House, which “gave me a better sense of Vermont, got me comfortable speaking with politicians, and prepared me to become actively involved in some very important issues,” he says.
“Being actively involved in important issues” has defined Maroni ever since.
Graduating in 2012 with a B.A. in Political Science, he went on to become the top fundraiser in history for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) and among the top three canvassers in the U.S. VPIRG subsequently invited Maroni to work in its Montpelier office on major donor activities. He succeeded in that role, he says, “because I really believed in the cause, so I brought a passion to it. I also think that because of my socialization as a child in Gabon, I was able to ‘read’ people and see where the conversation was heading, and I could take them there.”
Today Maroni is a field coordinator with the nonprofit Let’s Grow Kids, a statewide campaign advocating public support for high-quality, affordable child care for Vermont children through age 5 -– the most important years for healthy development. Maroni covers three counties, recruiting and training volunteers; mobilizing teachers, business leaders, pediatricians and others; and educating Vermonters about the crucial first five years of a child’s development. It’s one of the ways he gives back, grateful for the life he has in the U.S., for the personal attention he received at JSC, for the love and support he received both as a child in Gabon and an adult in Vermont. “These experiences have all made me who I am today and sharpened my commitment to public service,” he says. “I like working to make a difference. Things are good.”