SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Childhood experiences are an essential ingredient to learning. Early child educators frequently stress exposing children to new places, activities and cultures, saying that they cultivate a child’s love for learning, and strengthen the child’s ability to connect new concepts to what he or she already knows.
But what about the children who lack the opportunities for such experiences?
This was the concern that 10-year-old Jayden Paul of Springfield wanted to address. His effort awarded him a $1,500 grant from the State of Vermont, and the privilege to announce the start of Sunday’s Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park.
Never have I ever
Jayden lives in Springfield, Vermont with his mother, Cathy Paul, and his 4-year-old brother Wyatt. Jayden also has two older sisters, Brittany, 28, and Jenna, 25. Jenna still resides in Springfield.
Jayden and his family enjoy a long history of fostering children. Jayden said he cherishes the relationships he builds with foster siblings, as well as the opportunity to share his home and quality time as a family.
“It’s fun meeting new kids,” Jayden said in an interview this week. “It also makes me feel good that I know they are safe and have food and a place to sleep.”
One of Jayden’s favorite memories with foster children are the family trips, which range from going fishing, hiking Mount Ascutney, visiting a farm or Six Flags. Once the family went to Disney World.
“I think its cool when kids get to visit places outside of Springfield and Vermont,” Jayden said. “When kids have stayed at our house in foster care, we like to bring them to see things they haven't seen or done before. Like Chuck E Cheese, the ocean, for a hike or to the movies.”
This winter Jayden applied for a Youth4Youth grant to create a new activities club, called the “Never Have I Ever Club.” This program would organize trips to places that many children have never or rarely visited, and fund these trips through sponsors and donations. Cathy Paul works for the Springfield School District’s All 4 One program, an after-school program that provides year-round activities and trips, including during summer vacation. All 4 One, a non-profit organization, will include the Never Have I Ever Club under its operations.
Youth4Youth grants are state funds made available specifically to young people, to fund ideas that will promote youth rights, expression and creativity. These grants are awarded by the Vermont Youth Council, a collective of young people from across the state.
Last month the council awarded Jayden $1,500 to launch his Never Have I Ever Club. The award also included a ceremony in Montpelier and a tour of the state house.
The first excursion
“After we found out [about the grant] we kicked off with a trip for adolescents to Boston,” said Cathy Paul.
The cost for each student would be $40, Cathy said. To fund students she and All 4 One Director Tammy Stagner bought adults willing to sponsor one child each. A district school bus provided the group with free transportation, as it was already escorting other students to Boston.
“We were originally hoping to find five to six sponsors, but we ended up with enough sponsors to take all 16 kids,” Cathy said.
In Boston the club took students to the Boston Aquarium, the harbor and on a walk around the city. Jayden attended the trip as well.
The Boston Red Sox organization was impressed by Jayden’s story as well. This Sunday at Fenway Park Jayden will ceremoniously start the game by announcing “play ball”.
In celebration of team mascot Wally’s birthday, youth promotion Kids Nation ran a Kids Helping Kids contest, asking each entrant to share how he or she would assist families in need. The chosen winner would get to throw out the first pitch.
Though Jayden did not win, the promoters found Jayden’s story so inspiring that they invited him to deliver the announcement.
Jayden says the attention over the past month feels good, but he looks especially forward to the summer, and the start of All 4 One’s “'Never Have I Ever' Camp.”
“I hope we can do lots of fun trips with kids this summer,” Jayden said. “I want to take kids to Boston to see the city, and I hope we can go to the ocean.”
People or businesses interested in making donations to the Never Have I Ever Camp may call the All for One program at 802-885-2531, visit or message them through their website.