This summer, YWCA knows that due to the covid learning slide, kids need extra support to get them back-to-school ready for the 2021-2022 year. That is why YWCA local associations across our network have been busy offering camps and other summer programming to uplift our youth despite the structural, social, and educational challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To highlight some of the incredible work we do every day, we invited YWCA Vermont Executive Director Deb Jorschick to speak on what her YWCA is doing to ensure youth are supported, educated, empowered, and prepared to thrive in this upcoming school year and beyond.
What programs and services does YWCA Vermont offer to support kids in your community during summertime?
DJ: YWCA Vermont is proud to have been empowering girls and women through residential and daytime summer camp experiences since 1919. In alignment with our mission to eliminate racism and empower women, YWCA Vermont’s Camp Hochelaga strives to create and maintain a socially, emotionally, and physically safe and inclusive environment where youth can build new skills, practice leadership, collaborate across differences, and develop self-confidence. In this safe and healthy environment, female and non-binary identifying young people from diverse backgrounds are provided the opportunity to connect with positive adult role models, build healthy peer relationships, and engage in dialogues exploring community resources, open-mindedness, and positive decision-making, among other life skills.
What are the demographics of the communities you serve? Are there eligibility requirements for the kids you serve?
DJ: The Circle of Girls scholarship fund has been in place since our inception to ensure that youth, regardless of financial means, have access to the empowering summer camp experiences cultivated at Camp Hochelaga. This summer, we hope to extend camp tuition funding to 100 campers for one- and two-week camp experiences. Families who qualify to receive scholarship funding are navigating food insecurity, homelessness, foster care, substance abuse, and incarceration of a parent, among other challenges. At Camp Hochelaga, we recognize that making safe, healthy summer programs accessible for all school-age youth, regardless of economic means and family experience, will help address summer learning slide, youth substance use, summer meal insecurity, excessive screen time, and child care concerns in our community. Camp Hochelaga combines a safe and exciting outdoor environment with engaged, positive mentors and opportunities to try new things and build new skills.
What is the importance and impact of Summer Programming for Kids in your Community?
DJ: Camp Hochelega is proud to welcome campers from Vermont to New York City, striving to build a community of empowerment and inclusivity to youth who may not have had access to educational, empowering, or safe environments outside of the academic year. During the summer, we provide a safe place for our campers to land by keeping them engaged and social media free while participating in our programs. Each year, we are happy to serve over 600 girls at Camp Hochelega with new opportunities, activities, and a chance at building life-long friendships that many wouldn’t have been able to pursue otherwise.
How has your team continued to serve your community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
DJ: Last summer, we engaged our camper base via zoom with activities such as camp singing to creative home projects and engaged our alumnae base in a letter writing campaign to our campers with great success! This campaign gave alumnae the opportunity to recall their camper days and to give our current campers some history of how we have evolved over the years. We also posted video updates on social media of the camp property upkeep to give them hope for the upcoming camp season and assure them that the property was being taken care of during the pandemic. Consequently, we couldn’t have been happier to announce our re-opening of in person this summer to the campers and their families.
How can our readers support this critical work?
DJ: To support YWCA Vermont, please check out the giving opportunities on our website. While we greatly appreciate monetary donations, we also have a wish list that outlines the types of gently used items that we need dearly during our camp season. If you are interested in supporting us further, follow us on our blog, Facebook, or Instagram to witness our journey.
If you are interested in learning more about YWCAsummer camps and programming in your area, click here to find a YWCA near you today!