“Our mission is to empower teenagers, young adults, and their families to make and sustain positive changes through prevention, intervention, and life skills services.”

Spectrum Youth and Family Services is a local organization all Vermonters should be proud of – they work tirelessly serving 2,000 teenagers, young adults, and their family members each year, helping them build a better future for themselves and their communities.

Spectrum focuses on ages 12-26 and covers three core areas of aid:

Basic Needs and Supportive Housing

Spectrum makes it a priority to be able to help those in need of shelter. They provide emergency and transitional housing for homeless and at-risk youth and work hard to help young people transition to and maintain a healthy and stable life. Their eight-bed short-term housing, The Landing, is available to homeless youth ages 17-22. Young people who have success at The Landing are able to move to Spectrum’s Transitional Housing. There are two transitional housing residences (a total of 17 beds) and both focus on helping individuals learn to become independent and sustain a happy life.

The Spectrum Drop-In Center is a safe and welcoming place for young people ages 14-24 to eat a free meal; use a computer, printer, or phone; do laundry; get clothing; take a shower; take a class on topics such as life skills, job readiness, parenting, or safe dating; get help applying for jobs or applying for benefits; get assistance in finding a place to live.

Dinner and dessert at Spectrum’s Drop-In Center is delicious and made with love! PC: Facebook @spectrumvermont

Skills Programs

Spectrum runs two programs with the intention to impact the lives of homeless or at-risk youth in a positive and transformational way: their Youth Development Program, and their Jump On Board for Success Program (JOBS). The Youth Development Program helps approximately 200 youths ages 15-22 who are, or have been, in foster care develop independence and strong leadership skills. They work on eight crucial areas of life to meet this end: housing, employment, health and mental health, hard and soft skills, goal setting, assessing needs and strengths, and higher education. The JOBS program helps young adults ages 14-26 who have many obstacles to success find stable and competitive employment and work on overcoming barriers to success.

Prevention and Intervention

Spectrum’s prevention and intervention initiatives are creative, effective, and simple. They run a Mentorship Program that allows members of the community to spend a few hours a month with a teenager or young adult. They are referred by counselors that know the individual and their family well and believes it would be truly beneficial for these young people to spend time with an older mentor.

“You don’t need to be a hero or a counselor. All you need to be is a friend.”

They also run a Multicultural Youth Program, focused on individuals who may self-identify as multicultural or as New American, with the goal to connect these young adults to resources, services, and programs in the community to gain life skills and encouragement to help them on their path to success. They offer programs like bike club, indoor soccer, youth conference, girls group, and many more. These programs are intended to empower these individuals and help them to gain a sense of community.

A group of ladies smile for the camera at Spectrum’s 2017 Multicultural Youth Leadership Conference at Champlain College. PC: Facebook @spectrumvermont

Spectrum also runs Riverstone Counseling, a local counseling center that focuses on teenagers and young adults who struggle with a wide variety of issues, such as depression, anxiety, life transitions, family conflict, substance use disorders, and much more. The counselors are trained mental health professionals who specialize in treating young adults. Spectrum also works in partnership with Community Health Centers of Burlington to provide a no-cost, walk-in health clinic. The Pearl Street Youth Health Center gives young adults easy access to STD and pregnancy testing, counseling, and referrals.

Spectrum has been covering these three crucial need areas for the Northwestern Vermont area since 1970.

Their programs have evolved over time and continue to grow to this day. Most recently, Spectrum launched Detail Works, a car detailing business that employs young people and teaches them job skills in a safe and supportive environment. Their grand opening is this Fall, so you’ll have to wait a bit for your socially-responsible suds-up, but in the meantime check out this great cartoon local artist James Kochalka and reporter Kymelya Sari created.

If you’re feeling compelled to get involved, there is a multitude of ways you can do so. Spectrum can only provide these services to our community because of generous donations from individuals and businesses alike. You can directly donate on their website (you can set up a monthly or a one-time donation), make a donation in someone’s name for the holidays or their birthday (they’ll get a beautiful card made by Vermont artist Haley Bishop), or you can donate specific items to their Drop-In Center (list here). You can also donate time and volunteer in many different capacities.

Guests of Spectrum’s 2016 Empty Bowl Dinner show off their chosen bowls. PC: Facebook @spectrumvermont

One important (and fun!) way you can help Spectrum in the near future is by attending their Empty Bowl Dinner on Thursday, October 12th from 5:30 PM-7:30 PM at the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester. Each attending guest gets to choose a handmade ceramic bowl to keep and fill with a variety of delicious soups donated from several local restaurants. There is also a giving board where guests can “buy” program items directly for Spectrum’s clients (bus passes, winter clothes, school books, etc.). It’s a marvelous event benefiting a wonderful cause – and promises tasty dinner, dessert, and great conversation.

Click here to learn more about Spectrum, who they serve, and what they do.

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