COVID-19 Recommendations and Resources

With the closure of Vermont’s schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MENTOR Vermont recommends that all mentoring programs suspend all in-person mentoring for the time being. We realize that this is a different and difficult time for everyone and while the youth served by mentoring programs value and look forward to spending time with their mentors, as a community we need to all do what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19, avoid putting undue strain on our medical system, and protect those who are most vulnerable.

May 8th Update: Given Governor Scott’s relaxing of some restrictions on May 6th, we realize that mentoring programs are wondering when it may be possible to resume in-person mentoring. Here is our list of recommendations for any program that is creating a plan to do so.

We realize that these school closings and youth losing access to their consistent meetings with their mentors will cause a substantial amount of disruption in the lives of mentees and their families. Below we have compiled a list of alternative options for social contact between mentors and mentees, resources about COVID-19 and how to talk to youth about it, and resources/ideas for supporting families impacted by these closures. We will continue to add to this list as more information becomes available.

1: Mentoring During the Pandemic

Given Governor Scott’s relaxing of some restrictions on May 6th, we realize that mentoring programs are wondering when it may be possible to resume in-person mentoring. Here is our list of recommendations for any program that is creating a plan to do so.

During this confusing time for everyone, and especially youth, it is important that mentors maintain contact (without meeting in person) with their mentees if they are able. Here are some suggestions of alternative ways mentors can interact with their mentees depending on the model of the program they participate in. Mentors, please be sure to check with your program if you aren’t sure of what mediums of communication are approved by your program before using them to communicate with your mentee.

School/Site-Based Programs

  • Send Letters: Mentors can email the program coordinator messages for their mentees and the coordinator can print it out and mail it to the mentee.
  • Conference (3-way) call with mentor, mentee, and coordinator.

Community-Based Programs

  • Matches can maintain consistent contact via
    • Phone or text
    • Messaging apps (Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.)
    • Social media
    • Video chats 
    • Mail letters

Activity ideas:

  • Discuss how the coronavirus is impacting them (see resources below)
  • Plan out activities to do when you are able to meet in-person again
  • Play online games together
  • Read the same book and discuss it when you talk each week
  • Watch a movie at the same time and discuss
  • Send a photo to each other each day

ECHO at Home Learning
The ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain might be closed, but the invitation for mentors and mentees to play and learn with them is always open! From engineering challenges to Science & Stories and ECHO-themed coloring pages, the new ECHO at Home webpage has what you need for inspired science learning at home. Activities use simple materials commonly found around the house and encourage youth to safely explore outside. Check back often and have fun learning! Video learning sessions are updated weekly.

Have other ideas that we should add? Email [email protected] and we can add to this list.

We also encourage you to visit MENTOR National’s Coronavirus Tips and Resources for Mentoring page.

And download the Search Institute’s Building Developmental Relationships During the COVID-19 Crisis checklist for 19 ways to connect with young people during this time.

2: Information About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Vermont Department of Health Resource Page:

University of Vermont Health Network Resource Page:

Office of Governor Phil Scott: Press releases from the governor’s office, including details on the state’s efforts to address COVID-19.

Statewide Media Feeds with COVID-19 News:

3: Talking With Youth About COVID-19
4: Resources for the Families of Mentees
  • Dial 2-1-1 or visit: https://vermont211.org for help connecting with resources
  • Contact your local school district about how they will support free and reduced meals during this time of school closure.
  • Other Food Access Questions
    • We encourage you to visit Hunger Free Vermont’s “COVID-19 and Food Access” page which includes information on how to apply for school lunch if a family’s economic situation has changed, 3SquaresVT and WIC, food banks, and other meals programs for people of all ages.
  • Free High-Speed Internet during the Pandemic:
    • Comcast Internet Essentials
      Throughout Vermont (where Comcast service is available), families of youth who qualify for free or reduced lunch can receive two free months of high-speed internet access. This program also operates throughout the year at a cost of $9.95 a month for qualified families.
    • Burlington Telecom
      Offering free high-speed internet access to families of Burlington K-12 students during the school closures.
  • Resources available in languages other than English:
    • Vermont Department Health COVID-19 Fact Sheet
      (The link above shows the fact sheet in English. It is also available in Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, French, Kurundi, Nepali, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese. Access translated versions of this resource, and find other materials about COVID-19 translated into other languages by visiting www.healthvermont.gov/COVID19 and scrolling down to “Translated Materials.”
    • Informational COVID-19 PSA Videos (produced/shared by Alison Segar from Spectrum’s Multicultural Youth Program)
      Full Playlist Available Here on YouTube
      Translations are available in the following languages: Arabic, Bosnian, Dinka, French, Lingala, Nepali, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, and Vietnamese.
    • New Americans in Vermont Website
      Contains all of the videos in other languages listed above as well as links to information in American Sign Language, and other important resources related to food and internet access for the Greater Burlington area.
5: Addressing Inaccurate/Racist Information

Embracing an Antiracist Approach to Inaccurate Information About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
As our Vermont mentoring community works together to disrupt racist, inaccurate information about the coronavirus (information that is harmful to our mentees and mentors), below are three articles that offer helpful strategies and information.

6: Financial Resources for Programs

OJJDP COVID-19 Response Grants

Does your mentoring agency coordinate a youth mentoring program in one or more of the following counties? Bennington, Caledonia, Essex, Orleans, Franklin, Grand Isle, Rutland, Windham, and Windsor.

In response to the pandemic, MENTOR Vermont and the Vermont Department of Children and Families are reallocating the first portion of a three-year $1.25 million grant we recently received from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to support youth in rural communities impacted by the opioid epidemic. We are awarding one-time response grants to mentoring agencies in these counties to fund match support to existing adult-to-youth mentor matches and build organizational capacity and develop organizational improvements to ensure their program(s) can not only maintain the number of mentor matches during this time of physical distancing but help the organization to be poised to expand their program(s) once social distancing guidelines are lifted and in-person mentoring can resume. 

Proposals are due by May 20, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. Visit the OJJDP COVID-19 Response Grants page to learn more and to read the full RFP.

Non-Profit Federal Financial Relief

Here is more information to assist you in figuring out if and how your organization can receive financial assistance from the Federal Government through the CARES Act (the most recent COVID-19 stimulus bill).

Under the CARES Act, for the first time, nonprofit organizations are eligible to receive some Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and assistance. The resources listed below are some common questions and guidance on the options nonprofits may consider.

PLEASE NOTE: Things are moving rapidly and a lot of information is being shared piecemeal. We recommend using these resources to guide but not instruct your organization. The SBA has a page dedicated to COVID-19 with summaries of their loan and assistance programs. The U.S. Treasury has also posted information on these loan opportunities.

In addition to these resources, we also encourage organizations to seek guidance from your audit firm and/or legal counsel as they can be an important resource in navigating these opportunities. Please feel free to reach out to me if you would like to discuss this further, I’m happy to try to answer any questions you may have and help you weed through all of this one-on-one if needed.