BENNINGTON — The Center for Restorative Justice is hosting a pizza-making event for young people at Ramunto’s on Monday. This will be followed by a geocaching activity on Tuesday, an outing at Lake Shaftsbury on Wednesday, then music and games at Willow Park on Thursday.
And they don’t stop there. From Monday to Thursday each week, all the way till Aug. 27, CRJ is holding free summer activities specifically designed for sixth to eleventh graders in the area. The Bennington community justice organization has been offering youth summer activities since 2005, but they’ve only run for a week — until now, when the program received almost $24,000 in federal funding.
CRJ said it is using the money to provide teens who aren’t typically involved in summer camps with fun, safe and supervised summer activities. Although the nonprofit organization primarily serves residents of Bennington County, it said that young people from nearby areas are welcome to join its youth summer activities.
“Providing activities at no cost is essential in supporting all youth,” said CRJ Executive Director Leitha Cipriano, “giving them a chance to engage in opportunities they may otherwise not get a chance to experience.”
The 11 weeks of activities it has lined up this year includes mini golf, fishing, swimming, as well as trips to the Mystery Escape Room in Albany, N.Y., and Massachusetts’ MASS MoCA museum. Snacks and lunch will also be provided.
Participants can sign up for as many activities as they want, the organizers said. Some field trips have space limitations, so those who want to join are asked to register as soon as CRJ announces the weekly activities through its Facebook page and mailing list.
CRJ, a nonprofit established in 1984, serves around 1,500 youth and adult clients each year through programs that include prevention, intervention and community reintegration. Its summer youth program is among Vermont’s 39 recipients of the Summer for All Grant, $3.85 million in federal dollars secured by Sen. Bernie Sanders to expand summer enrichment programs for students K-12 this year.
“Not only are we doing better in terms of the pandemic — with all Vermonters twelve and older now able to be vaccinated — we are now investing millions of federal dollars into local communities for summer activities that will help thousands of students,” according to a portion of Sanders’ statement when the grant awardees were announced at the end of May.
“The grantees who will be receiving these funds for their summer programs are key to ensuring our young people have the great summer they deserve. By making their programs free or low-cost, addressing transportation needs and finding opportunities for older students — like expanded employment options — these organizations are tackling the major barriers faced by so many working Vermont families during the summer months,” the senator said.
Vermont Afterschool, a nonprofit group that is administering the grant, said the awardees took part in a “highly competitive process” that involved 188 proposals with a total funding request of $7.4 million. The grant awardees included summer camps, libraries, municipalities, teen centers and nonprofit social services organizations, all meant to supplement school-based programs.