A familiar face returned to Milton last month to stand at the helm of Milton Community Youth Coalition.
Jessica Summer, who was MCYC’s development and communications director in 2016, came back this summer after five years away to be the coalition’s new director.
“I loved my time at MCYC before, and I jumped at the chance to come back,” Summer said. “I told the board it feels like I’m coming home.”
MCYC is a community non-profit working to promote safe, substance-free activities and food security for Milton youth.
From 2017 until earlier this year, Summer worked at Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community, another nonprofit focusing on substance abuse prevention. She was its youth project and fundraising coordinator.
“Most people who work in this field have a personal connection to it one way or another,” she said. “For me, I’ve seen people I grew up with as well as some of my college friends really struggle with substance abuse. I jumped at the opportunity to see what I could do to help stop that.”
Summer received her undergraduate degree in English from Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, and she’s interested in the way numbers and words can be combined to tell stories, a passion that is reflected in the master degree she holds in library information sciences.
She plans to use that interest to help MCYC continue its mission of both preventing youth from turning to substance use and intervening at the community level to curb negative habits and values.
“I like that I am able to work with kids at the education level and with the community to build a town that upholds healthy choices for everyone,” she said.
Summer has a number of plans and goals for MCYC, including updating the website, building out its food access opportunities and expanding its mentoring program.
MCYC recently received a grant that will allow it to grow its mentoring program to include peer-to-peer mentoring. Currently, children in third through eighth grade are paired with an adult mentor and are meeting virtually for the time being.
But for the first time ever, MCYC’s new grant will allow the coalition to match high school youth with elementary school students.
“We’re not entirely sure what the structure of that will look like yet, but we’re going to make sure that we follow school and Vermont Department of Health policies,” Summer said.
In addition, Summer is excited to launch a brand-new website that will now include a virtual activities fair -- a one-stop-shop for parents to find and sign-up their children up for Milton sports, clubs, and services.
MCYC’s Milton activities fair is usually a one-day event held every September, but its been shifted online due to the COVIC-19 pandemic. Summer said this shift is actually beneficial, because now the information provided during the fair can be found all-year long.
“I’m excited about that,” she said. “I think it will be easier for people as everything is constantly changing.”
All vendors in the virtual fair will be asked to supply their COVID-19 policies and procedures, allowing parents to make informed decisions about their child’s participation, Summer said.
Though it’s been an adjustment, she said, starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic, it's been easier knowing many of her colleagues from years earlier.
“I’m just excited to be back,” she said. “And to watch MCYC as it continues to grow,” she said.