COVID-19 Recommendations and Resources

MENTOR Vermont realizes that this is an uncertain 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.

School closings and youth losing access to their consistent, in-person meetings with their mentors this spring have caused a substantial amount of disruption in the lives of mentees and their families. Below we have compiled recommendations for safely resuming in-person mentoring, 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

As the state relaxes its restrictions and begins to open back up, we realize that mentoring programs are wondering both how to safely resume in-person mentoring and how to adapt their program models to continue to offer and enhance remote mentoring options. Learn more about how your program can create a plan and new policies to do so by reviewing our list of recommendations (updated version, reflecting the AOE guidance, coming soon).

While some mentoring programs will or already have begun to resume in-person mentoring, we realize that this will look very different from program to program, and many programs may only be able to operate remotely during the 2020-2021 school year. According to Secretary of Education Dan French, both mentoring staff members and mentors fall under the Agency of Education’s definition and guidelines for “contracted service providers” and can be allowed inside a school; however, school districts and supervisory unions will need to make their local decisions whether to offer in-person mentoring at their schools based on their needs, constraints, and ability to meet all other guidelines put forth by the State.  Download our school-based mentoring guidance letter for more information.

Additionally, all programs that are allowing for physically distanced in-person mentoring to resume should also continue offering remote mentoring as well. MENTOR Vermont strongly recommends that in-person mentoring only resume for a mentor match if the mentor, mentee, and the mentee’s family all discuss how to do so safely with the program coordinator and opt in to mentoring happening in person again. Please refer to our list of recommendations and don’t hesitate to reach out for support as you determine how mentoring will look for your program this summer, fall, and beyond.

During this confusing time for everyone, and especially youth, it is important that mentors maintain contact (even if they can’t meet 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 continues to offer opportunities for mentors and mentees to play and learn! 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
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • 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.

7: COVID-19 Survey for Mentors and Mentees

Through MENTOR Vermont’s and the Vermont Department of Children and Families’ OJJDP Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative Category 5 grant, MENTOR Vermont was able to work with Amy Syvertsen, director of applied qualitative research at the Search Institute and member of the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board, to develop and implement the COVID-19 Response Mentoring Surveys. The COVID-19 Surveys are available and encouraged for all youth mentoring programs in Vermont but administering this survey is optional (unless your organization is a subgrantee of the MENTOR Vermont: OJJDP Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative – COVID-19 Response funding).

The goals of the surveys are to:

  • Understand — quantitatively and qualitatively — what mentoring relationships look like, how they have changed, and the impact of maintaining mentoring relationships during COVID-19 (including in-person mentoring with social distancing and remote mentoring). 
  • Identify barriers and ways to improve mentoring in a pandemic (and, remote mentoring and social distance mentoring more generally). 

Survey Timeline: All data collection will be completed by September 4, 2020 (for OJJDP subgrantees grantees) and by October 31st for any other mentoring agencies wishing to administer, with an August 5th launch date. MENTOR Vermont strongly encourages you to administer the surveys between August 5th – September 4th so that your data isn’t impacted by mentees beginning the school year. OJJDP COVID-19 Response grantees are required to follow the August 5th – September 4th timeline.

Is your mentoring program interested in administering the surveys?

View the sample surveys here:
Mentor Survey (SurveyMonkey)
Mentee Survey (SurveyMonkey)
Mentee PDF version

View the Survey Toolkit to learn more about the surveying process and how to get started. Contact [email protected] and we will set up your custom SurveyMonkey links for you.