case study

Carving a Path Forward for Universal Afterschool in Vermont



Across the country, afterschool programs have been chronically underfunded for decades—and the unmet demand among families has reached an all-time high. In fact, in the small, rural state of Vermont, more than 26,000 youth are waiting for an available program.

In 2020, Governor Phil Scott announced his intent to offer universal afterschool across the state—meaning afterschool and summer programs would be accessible and affordable for all families who want to enroll, particularly those who have low incomes and live in rural locations.

Meanwhile, for years, Vermont Afterschool had been building relationships with Vermont’s political leaders, including the governor and Senator Bernie Sanders, and state and local agencies. They were laying the groundwork to ensure universal afterschool would one day be a reality, and were ready and willing to spearhead the launch of the universal afterschool and summer model.

Vermont Afterschool needed to develop the roadmap for the new statewide model and host an event with leaders and programs from across the state to announce the plan.

Our Approach 

Burness helped Vermont Afterschool plan a meeting to take Governor Scott’s and Senator Sanders’ offices and other state agencies through their roadmap. Burness held several planning meetings and assisted with the meeting script and discussion exercises. As a result, Vermont Afterschool was able to take attendees through a facilitated discussion that solicited input and built consensus. 

Next, Burness convened Vermont Afterschool and other consultants to help plan the statewide event, where the governor and senator would formally announce their plans to launch the universal afterschool model and name Vermont Afterschool as the leader of the effort. Burness supplemented the event announcement with a social media campaign blitz and materials that articulated the vision and plans to press, providers and stakeholders. 

Results and Impact 

The Vermont Afterschool team left the planning meeting with valuable input on their roadmap and full confidence from the governor’s and senator’s offices and state agencies in their leadership of the new universal afterschool and summer model. 

The announcement event, which took place in the capital city of Montpelier, continued the momentum. The one-hour event was live streamed and attended by members of the media, government agencies, afterschool providers and youth. Vermont Afterschool emceed, including introducing the governor, Senator Sanders, other state legislators and students. 

Senator Sanders,  Governor Scott and key partners shared the announcement widely, using materials we developed and distributed, including a press kit, social media toolkits, GIFs and stories. We also collaborated with Vermont Afterschool’s media relations firm to earn a packed “media house” and front-page newspaper stories that weekend. 

Today, the state of Vermont is solidifying funding streams to support universal afterschool and summer for years to come, with plans to have the model well underway by 2024. 

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