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Horizons at Your School

Inspiring Minds • Building Community • Transforming Lives

“We have also learned that our university must be intimately engaged in primary and secondary education; over the past year, Sacred Heart, along with other colleges, has made a serious effort to advance this agenda through participation in Horizons National, which brings low-income students from the public and Catholic school systems to our campus for six weeks over the summer. We hope this experience of a college campus will inspire them to set high personal goals for themselves…” – John Petillo, President of Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT

Horizons at your College or University Essential Questions What is Horizons? How does Horizons advance our mission? Benefit our school? How does Horizons benefit the larger community?

Frequently Asked Questions How does a Horizons program work? What defines a Horizons program? How many students does a Horizons program serve in its first year, and in subsequent years? How are funds raised for our Horizons program? Does the funding model affect our school’s development efforts?

The Big Question How does our school start a Horizons program?

“Horizons expands our school’s visibility in the giving community. It builds connections with foundations and corporations that typically do not support independent schools.” – Miguel Brito, Head of St. Philip’s Academy, Newark, NJ

HORIZONS Essential Questions What is Horizons? Consider a group of low-income Kindergarten students. Picture a college campus in the summer, and on selected Saturdays during the school year. Imagine combining the two, and committing to those students for their school careers. Put that into practice, and you have a Horizons program. At the heart of every Horizons community is a partnership between a college or university, a Horizons program, a local public school, and often, a local independent school. The core summer session is a six-week, full-day, tuition-free educational enrichment program for low-income public school students with a broad range of academic abilities. Horizons blends high-quality learning with arts, sports, cultural enrichment, and confidence-building activities, particularly swimming. Each program is unique, reflecting the culture, curriculum, and philosophy of the host school. Now a national network of high-quality academic enrichment programs, Horizons provides a long-term, deep commitment to students. Horizons programs transform the lives of learners who would be otherwise caught in the achievement and opportunity gaps – giving them the tools and support to become successful and confident college-bound students.

How does Horizons advance our school’s mission? Benefit our school? With a Horizons program on campus, a college or university commits to a group of young students for their elementary and high school years. Over time, Horizons students come to see themselves as competent learners, determined to finish secondary school and aspire to college. This positive cycle benefits the college, as well as the wider community and the country as a whole. Through Horizons, your school can extend its resources and pedagogy to low-income students, transforming their lives both inside and outside your educational community. Initially, a Horizons program is often a collaboration between a college and a public school. A program may grow, however, to join with other colleges and universities and private and public schools in your region to better serve a larger community and group of students. From the beginning, the partnership leads to cooperation and professional development opportunities for teachers who work together during the summer, exchanging best practices that enhance both student and adult learning.

“The faculty, students and recent graduates from our university get to act as lead Horizons teachers, assistant teachers or interns, allowing them to practice and model what they teach or learn throughout the year.” – Raffaella Borasi, Dean of Warner School of Education, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY


An institution of higher education with an Education Department can give undergraduate and graduate students superior training and demonstration opportunities. Each program hires professional lead teachers from public and private schools to work side-by-side in the classroom, using project-based teaching methods that excite and engage students. Undergraduate and graduate students interested in teaching can practice their craft under the supervision of their professors and master teachers. Educators are given the freedom to teach in an environment that encourages them to be creative; there is no standard curriculum. College administrators report that Horizons not only benefits the wider community, but also brings substantial benefits to their school: an enhanced reputation in the community, engagement with public schools and other community resources, and on-campus opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students to observe, teach, and match theory to practice. A Horizons program at institutions of higher education also provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to do meaningful research on important national educational issues.

How does Horizons benefit the larger community? A National Problem

Every summer, low-income children fall backwards two to three months in reading and math, while middle class students jump ahead. By fifth grade, the achievement gap between the two groups is close to three years. It is not only the achievement gap that inhibits low-income students. The “opportunity gap” prevents them from experiencing what their more affluent peers benefit from: involvement with the arts and athletics, and exposure to the world outside of their own neighborhoods.

A Local Solution

Horizons is closing the achievement and opportunity gaps by providing underserved students with up to thirteen years of high-quality academics, enrichment, and confidence-building challenges, and by forming close learning communities. Horizons students improve an average of two to three months in reading and math skills over each summer. Furthermore, Horizons research shows that they become more engaged in school year-round; their attendance rates surpass those of their peers; their high school graduation rates are well above their district averages. In addition to academic skills they learn important life skills: the openness to try new activities, the perseverance to master challenges, the resilience to bounce back from difficulty, and the critical thinking to assess options and make good decisions about their futures.

“At a Horizons program you see firsthand what the data and testimonials can only describe: a program in which teachers and students are empowered and engaged. The support provided by Horizons National is substantial.” – Stephen Monroe, Assistant Dean, University of Mississippi

Frequently Asked Questions 1. How does a Horizons program work?

Horizons begins as early as the summer before Kindergarten, employs experienced, professional teachers, and enjoys the robust support and resources of a national network. Horizons provides students with targeted learning in literacy, math and STEAM. The growth model begins with pre-K or Kindergarten and adds grades each year as the original class matures to and through high school. Beginning early strengthens our students’ basic academic skills before third grade. Mixed ability levels and project-based learning allow higher achievers to practice peer support and act as examples – behaviors which spill over into their year-round schools. Every student learns to swim, building self-confidence and opening new doors. The early start, along with a strong emphasis on retention and family involvement, builds a learning community that encourages self-efficacy, engagement, and character development. The affiliate structure encourages local independence while providing the support of centralized services for Horizons teachers, staff, and committee members network-wide. Horizons National provides ongoing guidance to schools within the network, including an annual conference. The central office serves as a clearinghouse for affiliate best practices which inform and improve the quality of each program. Regular assessment of student progress provides data on the benefits of summer learning and enrichment for low-income students.

2. What defines a Horizons program?

The decentralized structure of the Horizons network provides host schools with the flexibility to adapt the Horizons program to their school and community culture. Horizons National simply requires that each affiliate comply with the core requirements of all Horizons programs, as delineated in our Affiliate Guidelines, while allowing for flexibility and local ownership.

3. How many students does a Horizons program serve in its first year, and in subsequent years?

A Horizons program usually starts with a class of 15 rising first graders. The student-teacher ratio is 5:1. A lead teacher, an assistant, and a volunteer provide classroom coverage. The program then grows one grade a year through high school. This slow, deliberate growth permits each host school to know each student and family, as well as raise funds in a gradual and manageable way. With their many resources, however, institutions of higher education are often able to accelerate this pace, beginning with several classes in the first year, or adding several a year in subsequent years.


4. How are funds raised for our Horizons program?

Horizons’ funding model takes advantage of both local and national sources of support. It is Horizons National’s goal to help create healthy, vibrant, and sustainable Horizons affiliates. To that end, Horizons National provides robust support, resources and training on an ongoing basis for all Horizons affiliates. Our launch support policy is meant to reinforce the best practices we have seen work for affiliates over time to ensure successful start-up. Launch support is extensive. Horizons National provides start-up services, products and training valued at almost $40,000 over the first two years, in addition to cash funding up to 20% of the first year budget for a new affiliate. In addition, Horizons National leverages its existing connections to seek local, third-party funding to connect with any new affiliate. Horizons National supports a new program in the following ways: • Advice on launch funding strategies; • Connection to foundations and corporations that do not typically fund private educational institutions; • Information about and links to organizations in the wider community with similar interests and missions; • Maintenance of a sustainable fundraising pace, given slow growth of program at one grade/year; • Setting up proven systems to ensure that the initial success continues to sustain the program’s growth.

5. Does the funding model affect our school’s development efforts?

Horizons host schools report that fundraising for the Horizons program has no negative impact on the school’s own fundraising. In fact, many report a positive effect. Schools state that many alumni and parents develop deeper and longer lasting connections with the host school through their involvement with Horizons, and that “lost” alumni are often re-engaged with their school community through Horizons. Your school’s fundraising is separate from Horizons in the following ways: • A Horizons Committee is responsible for fundraising for the program, and works with the school’s development office to collaborate on efforts and avoid conflicts; • Your school commits in-kind services, but no cash funds to the Horizons program; • Horizons makes few demands on the time of school administrators and Board members; • Schools with Horizons programs report no dip in their school annual fundraising; in fact, many colleges and universities have found their Horizons program to be a compelling feature in capital campaigns and alumni appeals.

“I would never have seen the University of Pennsylvania if it had not been for Horizons. When you grow up in a low-income community, you feel like you can’t do the things you want to do. But now the possibilities are endless. Horizons gave me the same opportunities and put me on a level playing field with my peers. It gave me opportunities in life that I may not have had.” – Taylor Stokes, Horizons alumna and student at the University of Pennsylvania

The Big Question How does our school start a Horizons program? Horizons National works with your staff for successful transition from initial concept to a program in action and works with programs throughout the year to ensure success at all levels. This process can range from four to eighteen months, and varies by school. Steps typically include: I.

Interested colleges and universities meet with Horizons National and form a small Exploratory Committee of interested staff, administrators, and trustees to assess the potential for partnership, and the feasibility of long-term success. The Horizons Exploratory Committee reviews materials provided by Horizons National – feasibility studies, strategic plans, budget templates, marketing materials, and program guidebook. A Horizons National representative visits the school.

II. The Exploratory Committee investigates the potential of Horizons at their school. This work may include contact with other Horizons host institutions, summer visits to programs, and working through aspects of the implementation plan with Horizons National. III. The Exploratory Committee presents to appropriate decision-maker(s), supported by Horizons National representatives. School Leadership votes to start a Horizons program. IV. Once the decision is made to proceed: • Affiliation agreement is reviewed and signed. • Horizons Executive Director is hired and receives training from Horizons National in starting and running a successful program. • Horizons National Affiliate Support works closely with the Executive Director to complete a comprehensive Implementation Plan, which covers all aspects of Horizons: organizational structure, budget, development strategies, faculty, students, volunteers, and program and curriculum planning. (A full outline of the Implementation Plan is available on Horizons National’s website.) • Horizons Committee is formed, often including members of the Exploratory Committee. • Executive Director identifies one or more local public schools to partner with the program. • First Kindergarten class is admitted, and teachers are hired. First year fundraising is completed. Summer PROGRAM STARTS!!

“Horizons was a life-changing experience. It helped me prioritize – school first and higher education. With the help of Horizons and the staff, I learned a lot and believed in myself. Now I’m in college and I am the first one in my family to do so.”  – Nehemias Luna, Horizons at Colorado Academy Graduate, student at Santa Clara University

Inspiring Minds • Building Community • Transforming Lives

120 Post Road West, Suite 202, Westport, CT 06880 (203) 594-7040

Horizons at Your College or University  
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