Spectrum Youth and Family Services wins Fix It With Five’s $10,000 grant

Blake Licata| Staff Writer| blicata@mail.smcvt.edu

Spectrum Youth and Family Services drop-in center in downtown Burlington

Every year, Fix It With Five, a student-led grant-program takes $5 from the tuition fees of each current student and donates it to support non-profit organizations in the greater Burlington area.   Local Chittenden County organizations have the opportunity to apply for the St. Michael’s College Fix It With Five grant for a total of $10,000 towards their work for the community. The recipient of this year’s $10,000 grant is Spectrum Youth and Family Services. 

This grant is awarded to an organization within Chittenden County that embodies the core values and mission of Fix It With Five. In the application process committee members go over proposals looking to see if these organizations embody the mission of Fix It With Five from their website states  “to promote systemic and permanent change through an annual grant to a local community based organization demonstrating the same commitment.” The goals of Fix It With Five, specifically around social justice, follow St. Michael’s Catholic and Edmundite tradition of hospitality and caring ministry.

After presentations from all three organizations were complete, the students voted for who they wanted to receive the grant. The recipient of the $10,000 Fix It With Five grant was Spectrum Youth and Family Services, a group that provides housing, counseling, mentoring, skills programs, work details, and drop-in centers to underprivileged youth. “It all interlocks. It could be a homeless youth that’s suffering from addiction, so we have a bed for them and addiction counseling,” said Mark Redmond, executive director of Spectrum. “It could be a runaway who needs a job, we can help them find a job while giving them a roof over their head. That’s what I like, it’s comprehensive.” “We’re not saying to the kids ‘go to this other agency to get help’, it’s all within Spectrum and that’s what I think makes it work so well.”

According to Redmond, the money received from the Fix It With Five grant is going towards their drop-in centers which includes lockers, dining room, kitchen and food for homeless youth. These drop-in centers are trauma informed spaces as many of the kids taking advantage of these drop-in centers have suffered trauma in their lives. 

Through this grant process, a goal of the committee is to inform students on the issues plaguing our area, but also informing the St. Michael’s community on the work being done to support those in need around us.  “Fix It With Five is really focused on getting students connected to the community that they are a part of and getting students connected to these organizations that are doing really important work, as well as finding ways to highlight the work they are doing that connects to our mission statement as a school and a committee,” said Sydney Nelson ’23, co-president of Fix It With Five. “In that, we specifically are thinking about how these organizations create programs that are going to create sustainable change within the community and how those programs contribute to alleviating conditions that prevent human dignity.” 

On Feb. 21st,  the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate and greater student body voted on which Chittenden County organization most deserved this grant. This year, the final three organizations were Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO), Step Out Vermont, and Spectrum Youth and Family Services. CVOEO helps families and individuals by providing basic needs of food, fuel and housing support during times of crisis. They also provide guidance for education, financial skills with the goal of helping them build a future in which they will thrive. Step Out Vermont helps incarcerated women by providing them with life skills through entrepreneurial training and resources. Spectrum Youth and Family Services offers shelter and support services to at-risk and homeless youth. 

“One challenging thing is that it’s really hard to pick only three organizations because every organization that applies is deserving in their own unique ways and every organization is really in need of funding as they do a lot of crucial work for our communities and community members,” Fil said. “To essentially have to reject people who are really all deserving and all truly need the funds is very hard to decipher through.” 

On Jan. 18th, Fix It With Five committee held a deliberation meeting where they argued, debated and discussed which three local organizations were most deserving of the $10,000 Fix It With Five grant out of the 12 applications being reviewed. In this meeting, they consider every aspect of this organization to make the most intentional and informed decision about who will benefit most from this grant. 

“We are asking ourselves how many people will the program reach, how much will $10,000 really help the organization, will this grant leverage other grants, are they proposing a real connection with St. Michales, how will they use the money, etc.” said Felicia Fil ’24, co-president of Fix It With Five. “We’ll go back and forth for hours until we collectively decide which three organizations most deserve the grant.”

“Vermont is a wonderful place, but it’s not all skiing and Ben and Jerry’s,” Redmond said. “There is a lot of homelessness and hunger just like there is anywhere else and I just feel that it’s our responsibility to respond to that as best we can.”