Pandemic-related anxiety and stress is hitting young people hardest, for a myriad of reasons. Judging by news reports and legislative action in the works, Vermont seems to exemplify this trend. With the mental health crisis facing children and youth taking center stage across the country just as summer approaches, many parents are left wondering what to do.

“How do I support my kid’s well-being? How do we get them through this? These are the questions on every parent’s mind since this began,” says clinical psychologist Cath Burns, Ph.D. She is COVID Support VT’s clinical supervisor and the quality director at Vermont Care Partners. “Now, so far into this, it’s more important than ever that we pay attention to how our kids are doing.”

Summer 2021: Time to Re-Engage, Connect, and Learn

Summertime is traditionally an opportunity for a re-set, and summer 2021 looms large in this regard. Now more than ever, summer represents an important time to re-engage, connect, and learn. That is the idea behind “Summer Matters,” a federally funded summer enrichment program for Vermont youth.

“We know that this summer, more than ever before, summer matters for our kids and families. The lack of in-person school, the loss of connection with peers, the limits on activities and access to everything from nutrition to sports, drama, music, clubs, and social events make it crucial that we help our youth re-connect and re-engage. Together, we are working hard to ensure robust, enriching, and fun options for kids from PK-12, as well as young adults.”

~Vermont Afterschool “Summer Matters” program announcement

‘Summer Matters’ Brings Federally Funded Enrichment Programs to Vermont Youth

Vermont Afterschool is coordinating Summer Matters in partnership with the Vermont Agencies of Education and Human Services, along with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ office. The program’s website says “Federal funding secured by Sen. Sanders in the American Rescue Plan will allow schools and others to build summer programs focused on meeting Vermont students’ needs.” The initiative encompasses school-based programming through direct funds to school districts as well as programs not directly connected with a school or district. 

According to Vermont Afterschool: “Summer learning programs are uniquely positioned to provide kids with enriching academics, social-emotional support, caring mentors and trained educators, healthy meals, physical activities, and opportunities to explore careers and gain workforce skills.” 

Proven Benefits of Summer Learning

The organization lists several specific benefits of summer learning:

  • Proven to boost learning. Programs engage students in enriching, hands-on projects that provide more time for deeper learning. And staff can ensure students who are struggling get the extra help they need.
  • Intentional focus on social-emotional learning and kids’ mental health. Programs connect young people with caring mentors who are trained to help youth build healthy relationships, navigate challenges, make good decisions, and heal from trauma.
  • Keep kids safe and engaged. Programs provide a safe place for youth to learn and gain critical social and life skills, including leadership, critical thinking, and teamwork. They care for young people both during and beyond the school day, allowing parents to return to work or take time to seek employment.
  • The benefits are clear. New research shows that high-quality summer programming can produce meaningful benefits for students, especially for those who are able to attend regularly and for consecutive summers.

For parents struggling with how to support their children, “Summer Matters” has three hopeful messages f: Summer is important, summer is safe, and summer programs are available that are accessible and affordable. Funded programs start June 14.

Find Resources for Local Summer Youth Programming and Support

To learn more, visit the “Summer Matters” website and sign up to receive updates.

Make sure to also check out the summer programming at your local community mental health center. A list of all the community mental health centers in Vermont can be found here.

Also see our Parent and Caregiver Covid-19 Resources for a range of carefully vetted information from validated sources. 


Need to talk? 

Call 2-1-1 (option #2) or 866-652-4636 (option #2) for free, confidential, one-on-one counseling. Our Support Counselors are available Monday – Friday. 

In crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825;  text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health agency for 24/7 support.

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at Follow COVID Support VT on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And, to stay up-to-date, sign up for our newsletter and blog.

Learn about upcoming Wellness Workshops from COVID Support VT, and Town Halls we’re hosting in partnership with community organizations.

One-click translation to 100 languages of most everything on the website, plus Multilingual Resources & downloadable materials in 10 languages common to Vermont’s New American immigrant and refugee communities. 

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Departments of Emergency Management and Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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