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Horizons at Your School Inspiring Minds

Building Community

Transforming Lives

“Horizons gives our students hope to believe in their dreams and the tools to realize them. Horizons touches more than the lives of the students, it touches their families and their communities. This is the opportunity that all of our students should have.” – Theresa Peña, former President of the Denver Public School Board of Education

Horizons at your School 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 Essential Questions What is Horizons? Consider a group of low-income Kindergarten students. Picture an independent school 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 an independent school, a Horizons program, a local public school, and often, a local college or university. The core summer session is a six-week, tuition-free, full-day 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 transforms 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 students.

How does Horizons advance our school’s mission? Benefit our school? Each Horizons program takes important aspects of a school’s mission, such as diversity, service learning, and community involvement, and puts them into action. A school commits to a group of young students for their elementary and high school years. Over time, Horizons students see themselves as competent learners, determined to finish secondary school, and aspire to college. 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 an independent school and a public school. A program may grow, however, to join with other private and public schools, and colleges and universities 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.

“Horizons had a huge impact on my life. It allowed me to dream, to think big, to aspire. It let me see beyond my everyday world.” – Joe Chan, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Empire State Development Company; Chair of Horizons at Brooklyn Friends School, and Horizons graduate.


Each program hires professional lead teachers and interns from public and private schools to work side by side in the classroom, using project-based teaching methods that excite and engage students. There is no standard curriculum. Educators are given the freedom to teach in an environment that encourages them to be creative. Host school administrators report that Horizons benefits the wider community and brings substantial benefits to their school: energized teachers who enjoy teaching students from different backgrounds, enhanced reputation in the community, new applicant families who value the moral commitment the school makes, and the growth of a loyal and dedicated group of alumni and former parents who continue to honor that commitment with financial support.

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 children with 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 and 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.

“Horizons is valuable for our parents and faculty. The program is a great volunteer opportunity for our students and also for their parents; faculty members have also found it meaningful and donate their time to helping. A number of families have come to the school because we have a Horizons program on campus. It is a plus for the school and a win-win for everyone.” - Tim Bazemore, Head, New Canaan Country School, New Canaan, CT

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 adds a grade 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 be 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 board 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 reflect their school and community cultures. Horizons National simply requires that each affiliate comply with the core requirements of all Horizons programs, as delineated in our Affiliate Guidelines.

3. How many students does a 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, up 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.

“The opportunity to change lives by what you do comes but rarely, and with Horizons you have the perfect combination of something that works incredibly well for the community and also for the school.� - Tim Cottrell, former Head, The Harley School, Rochester, NY


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 and past parents are often re-engaged with their school community through Horizons. Your school’s fundraising is separate from Horizons in the following ways: • The Horizons Board is responsible for fundraising for the program, and works with the school’s development office to 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.

“Horizons adds to our community in many ways, but it was surprising to realize that it actually strengthened our school’s budget.” – Nick Thacher, Head of Dedham Country Day School, Dedham, MA

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 school meets with Horizons National and forms a small Exploratory Committee of trustees, administrators, and interested staff to assess the potential for partnership, and the feasibility of longterm success. The Horizons Exploratory Committee reviews materials provided by Horizons National – feasibility studies, strategic plans, budget templates, marketing materials, and start-up 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 Committee presents to the Board of Trustees or appropriate decision-making body, supported by Horizons National representatives. The Board of Trustees votes to start 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 every aspect of 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 Board is formed, often including members of the Exploratory Committee. • The Executive Director identifies local public schools to partner with the program. • The first Kindergarten class is admitted, and teachers are hired. First year fundraising is completed. Summer PROGRAM STARTS!!

“If you ever get the chance to be involved in this program, in any way, do it! Because it changes you and it changes all the people around you, by you being there.” – Horizons graduate

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Horizons at Your Independent School  

How to bring Horizons to your school