Pandemic-funded kids programs gear up for summer fun

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:56 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - About 100 camps across the state are receiving state funds through the Summer Matters program, which aims to help children recover from the pandemic. Olivia Lyons, spoke with grant recipients to discuss how this opens opportunities for kids.

Officials say programming through the Summer Matters initiative is a way for kids to reengage and also learn about themselves and their interests.

“Hopefully insight. Not only a passion for one year but a passion that might extend for the rest of their lives,” said Bianca Roa with the Community Sailing Center in Burlington, one of the organizations participating in the program. With grant funding, the center is offering up to four weeks of free sailing camp to those who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. “As soon as we put it out to the community, it filled, and we cannot wait to have what is likely our most diverse camp year ever.”

Holly Morehouse is the executive director of Vermont Afterschool, the organization partnering with the state for this initiative. She says between 98 and 99-percent of programs are offering free or low-cost options and that these camps are about learning in fun, alternative ways through programs such as the arts, robotics, nature, and adventure and youth leadership. “Schools in the fall, education system, they’re the ones that are really responsible for the education and meeting the education goals and standards,” Morehouse said.

These grants made new programming available in Bennington at the Center for Restorative Justice, Castleton Recreation Commission, and the Stamford Library, to name a few. There is also a statewide hiring campaign through the initiative on Vermont Afterschool’s website. “We’ve had over, I think, 225 people use the website for that to get connected jobs, and a little less than half were high school students,” Morehouse said.

Burlington City Arts is another grant recipient which has hired teens as assistants in the classroom. “For us, teens were a significant priority, and we were able to expand our teen programs,” said Doreen Kraft, the group’s executive director. She says this opportunity gives life experience and is a way to heal after the pandemic. “Decide if the arts are some possible occupation for the future, but also just enrichment for them at this time in their lives, that’s what’s critical.”

Morehouse says the camps have been expanded and that 3100 slots were just added and continue to fill up.

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