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Sunday, Dec 4, 2022

Afterschool in Addison: Northwest district receives $100k for programs

This summer, the Addison Northwest School District (ANWSD) received two grants totaling $999,600 to both continue afterschool programming as well as expand its K-6 offerings into Addison and Ferrisburgh central schools.

Ten years ago, the first 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant, or 21C, was awarded to ANWSD, which funded the Fusion Expanded Learning Program, a set of afterschool activities. ANWSD soon after received another 21C grant to expand its programs to include Vergennes Elementary School students.

The majority of this year’s funding comes from the district’s third 21C grant, a federal prize made possible through the Vermont Agency of EducationThe district was also awarded a $40,000 grant from the Afterschool for All grant program, funded primarily through Vermont’s Child Development Division and to be paid over a two-year span.

“It’s a competitive grant,” ANWSD Fusion Coordinator Tara Brooks said of the 21C grant. “The federal government distributes money to each state, and then the state distributes money to local communities. But there has to be a certain amount of need in the local community.” 

Brooks noted that to apply for the grant, 40% of the student body has to qualify for free and reduced lunch rates. “[It’s] one of the biggest thresholds,” Brooks said. Two schools in the district, Vergennes Union Elementary School and Addison Central School, meet the free and reduced lunch rate requirements, and the second grant will allow ANWSD to expand to Ferrisburgh.

With its accessible range of programs, ANWSD broadly targets the Addison County community. Families can apply for childcare subsidies and scholarships for both ANWSD afterschool and summer programs. For the Fusion afterschool program, a family could even pay nothing. “You just pay what you can,” Brooks said.

Asia Kruse, Fusion Site Coordinator in Vergennes, noted the program’s commitment to accessibility.

“We will never deny anybody from participation due to financial reasons,” she said. Throughout the year, Fusion has five sessions of around six weeks each, each offering a different set of activities for students in grades 7–12. This session’s courses include Vermont History Day, which is an opportunity for students to create historical projects for presentation at an annual state contest, in addition to theater projects, yoga and a babysitting course. There is also a “Learning Lab” offered each day, where students can get homework help from teachers.  

“Research done on the benefits of afterschool programs show that students not only achieve academic success, but it has shown continued success as adults between kids that have access to these programs and kids that don’t,” Brooks said. She noted that grants allow families of all different financial statuses to access afterschool program.

“I feel that the afterschool setting is healing for students, and they can really open up,” Kruse said. “Sometimes they do not necessarily have a positive situation at home…but [when they join afterschool programs] they can find and build connections.”

Jay Stetzel, Director of School Counseling in Vergennes, underlined the importance of afterschool programs in relation to teen drug and alcohol usage.

“In general, we all know that if students are involved in [extracurriclars] offered by their school—sports, programming, whatever it might be — they are less likely to be involved [in risky behaviors],” he said.

Many consider this type of programming to be vital to the town of Middlebury itself. “If we did not have programming, parks and recreation or regular afterschool, there would be a very, very large and unhappy group of citizens living in Middlebury,” said Scott Bourne, Program Coordinator for Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department. “We realize how dependent [families] are on what we do.”

The grants that ANWSD received this summer will further their goal of creating a stronger and more resilient community for all Addison County residents and provide students the resources they need to learn and grow.

“We are trained to give students so many opportunities,” Kruse said. “We will keep fighting for grants to continue and expand our programming.”