State News

Mentor Vermont awards $755,000 in federal grants to youth mentoring agencies serving rural communities affected by the opiate epidemic

Mentor Vermont is excited to announce the awarding of four multi-year federal grants, totaling $755,000, to youth mentoring agencies serving rural communities in northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest Vermont.

Funding for these grants comes from a $1.25 million three-year federal grant awarded to the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) and Mentor Vermont from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative.

This larger grant is designed to increase the number of active adult-to-youth mentor matches in the regions mentioned above and provide mentoring services to youth (ages 6 to 17) living in rural Vermont communities inordinately impacted by the opiate epidemic. The first round of funding from this grant, awarded in 2020, was reallocated in the form of three-month Covid-19 response grants, totaling just under $175,000, to help mentoring programs adjust and maintain their programming during the early months of the pandemic.

The four grants include: a grant of $200,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont, primarily to support youth in northeastern and southeastern Vermont; a $240,000 grant to The Dream Program, primarily to support youth in northwestern, southeastern, and southwestern Vermont; a grant of $240,000 to the Mentor Connector (Rutland), primarily to support youth in southwestern Vermont; and a $75,000 grant to Windsor County Mentors, to support youth in southeastern Vermont. Each of these grants is a multi-year, reimbursement-based award that goes through Aug. 31, 2022. Collectively, these sub-grantees are committed to creating at least 200 new mentor matches.

“The Mentor Connector serves hundreds of youth and families across southern Vermont to ensure all youth develop a sense of purpose, passion, and belonging,” said Chris Hultquist, executive director of The Mentor Connector based in Rutland. “We are thrilled to be awarded this grant through Mentor Vermont and DCF as a part of their federal OJJDP funding.  As Covid has affected our young people, we have seen a 400% increase in youth on our waitlist, especially young men.  Our youth, dramatically affected by the uncertainty surrounding them, are asking for support from our community.  These funds will directly help us match trained and supported mentors for these youth.”

In order to address the needs of communities inordinately impacted by the opioid epidemic, all four sub-grantees are committed to providing evidence-informed mentoring services to rural youth with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and other known risk factors for substance abuse, including poverty, which have also been exacerbated by the pandemic. These grants will allow mentoring agencies to create new adult-to-youth (ages 6 to 17) mentor matches, enhance mentor training, increase engagement with families, and implement organizational improvements to adjust programming to meet the latest Covid-19 public health guidelines, grow mentoring program(s), and increase the number of youth served who are inordinately impacted by the opioid epidemic in their regions of Vermont.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is a long-time champion of youth mentoring programs, and in his role as vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has worked to expand the eligibility for OJJDP’s youth mentoring funding to include rural states that have been hard hit by drug addiction. DCF and Mentor Vermont became eligible to apply for funding because of a new category that allows a state government agency to receive a grant and sub-grant it to other agencies that can meet the needs of smaller, local communities.

“These programs are reaching our most vulnerable young people, who are often living in underserved rural communities,” said Leahy. “I’m proud of the work being done in Vermont. We know how critical these social connections are during normal times, but they are even more critical now as our country, and the world, faces down a deadly pandemic.”

For more information about mentoring programs across the state, visit

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