Summer enrichment programs mobilize for Vt. youth

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont officials have said children will need to re-engage this summer after the past pandemic year, and one way is through summer camps. Olivia Lyons visited one rapidly expanding program in Rutland.

The Summer Matters Initiative is run by Vermont Afterschool and has multiple components. It primarily funds 100 nonprofit programs in 13 counties with about $3.8 million from state and federal sources to pays for after-school initiatives extended into the summer and municipal-run camps. But it is also working with camps across the state they are not giving money to.

The MINT is a maker space in Rutland. This summer, it’s getting $55,000 from Vermont Afterschool as part of the Summer Matters initiative. Karen McCalla, Mint’s executive director, says the funding allows them to once again offer half-day camps to kids from area schools and lets them try something new, like introducing several of their own camps. “The money for the programming and the staffing from this grant will really let us scale up what we can do with kids,” she said.

The MINT moved into a new space this April and applied for grant funding. They heard back just last week that they got the funding. “We have space set aside for our kids and families maker space, but we ran out of money to actually build it. So, we were like, this is a perfect opportunity to get that all set up and have so much exciting programming for kids families, and teens all summer long,” McCalla said.

Kim Peters, superintendent of Rutland Recreation and Parks also applied for a Summer Matters grant to help pay for a summer camp that entire families can attend together, but they were denied. “We’re going to continue with the program. It’s not going to meet every day, but it is going to be three days a week. It’s like a pop-up camp,” she said.

Vt. Agency of Education Deputy Secretary Heather Bouchey says the programs being funded were not required to have an educational component, but many of them do. “We were really envisioning that these programs would align with and partner with the education programs offered by the public schools,” she said.

Bouchey says in the next few weeks, the state expects to know how many camp slots have been filled. Open slots at Rutland Recreation and Parks camps are hard to find.

But even though the city was denied Summer Matters money, Vermont Afterschool is still including them in their interactive map of programs. “Parents can go to the website and see what’s close to them and what their kids are interested in. It was a great idea that came out of COVID, which I think we’re going to continue,” Peters said.

The map is also being used as a way for people to find jobs. The MINT’s summer programming requires a larger staff that will be paid for through the grant and those job postings are on the Vermont Afterschool website too. “Right now, we are looking for teens who want to be maker mentors,” McCalla said.

Programming begins June 19th at The MINT although their sign-ups are not yet available.

Click here for more information on statewide summer programs.

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