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The Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth at the Vermont Community Foundation Announces $24,990 in Grants to Support Bennington-Area Youth


The Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth at the Vermont Community Foundation awarded $24,990 in grants to support dynamic and innovative youth programs in Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford. Three community members who live and/or work with youth in these five Bennington towns participated on the review committee.

In 2022, the fund prioritized projects that meaningfully focus on one or more of the following:

  • Elevating youth leadership and empowerment, especially of historically marginalized youth
  • Providing opportunity and access for youth facing continued hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty, and other challenges and traumas
  • Expanding youth engagement in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) activities and increasing youth exposure to STEAM careers
  • Advancing youth entrepreneurship

“From cradle to career, improving access to programs that set up young people for healthy, productive adulthood is critical to closing the opportunity gap,” said Vermont Community Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith. “We established the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth to expand the availability of these types of opportunities in the Bennington region, and it’s been exciting to see the program’s growth—awarding nearly $100,000 in grants since 2018. I’m confident this year’s recipients will continue to move the needle towards setting up every Southshire youth for success.”

Elisabeth Marx, a senior philanthropic advisor at the Community Foundation who lives in Bennington County, adds, “The nonprofits supported by the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth are the boots-on-the-ground organizations who know how to reach and support young people in the Southshire—but they’re often financially stretched. The Community Foundation is committed to having the fund award grants each year to increase the capacity of these organizations to help youth build skills and their engagement in civic matters, so they can become the community’s future achievers and leaders.”

The fund was formed in 2018 in response to the community’s recognition that middle and high school youth in the Bennington area are looking for more opportunities to pursue their interests and build new skills. Growing the number of youth development programs can play a vital role in keeping families in and attracting families to the region. The program has awarded $98,840 to youth-serving programs in the Bennington area since its launch in 2018. The goal is to grow the fund to $500,000 by the end of 2023 to permanently benefit area youth programs. Donations are currently being accepted towards this goal.

For more information on the Opportunity Fund for Southshire Youth and its $500,000 goal, please contact Elisabeth Marx at or 802-388-3355 ext. 241, as well as visit

2022 Grant Recipients

Berkshire Family YMCA received $3,500 to provide employment and entrepreneurship skills development support for Southshire youth at its Bennington Recreation Center.

Governor's Institutes of Vermont received $3,500 to provide program and scholarship support for low- and moderate-income Bennington-area high schoolers to attend Governor's Institutes of Vermont’s 2022 Summer Institutes.

Outright Vermont received $750 to support it’s 2022 LGBTQ+ Youth Summit, with a focus on the engagement of LGBTQ+ youth in the Southshire towns of Bennington, North Bennington, Pownal, Shaftsbury, and Woodford.

Paran Recreations received $3,840 to support the Lake Paran Junior Counselor program whereby youth are offered training and paid work experience as summer counselors.

Rutland Area NAACP received $3,500 to offer two BIPOC Hair Clinics for Bennington area youth.

Southern Vermont Arts Center received $1,750 to support its STEAM summer camps and to work in partnership with area schools and organizations to increase access for marginalized youth.

Southwest Vermont Regional Technical School District received $3,500 to support the expenses for five low- and moderate-income students to participate in driver’s education courses in the fall of 2022.

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union received $1,000 in support of a Juneteenth Celebration.

Vermont Arts Exchange received $3,650 to provide youth experience preparing for and participating in public performances with Moose Jr., a Vermont-based jazz trio.