Horizons National Conference: A glimpse

For those of you that might not know, Horizons is a national program with affiliates across the United States. The program is going through a growth spurt, and this summer there will be 60 affiliates serving students all around the country, making a tremendous difference in the life trajectory of our students.

Once a year, Horizons National (the main headquarters) brings together affiliate representatives to meet one another, learn from each other, get inspired, and trade stories about what is working and what can be improved. Traditionally, affiliates have been located on the campuses of independent schools (like Colorado Academy) and universities. I learned in this most recent conference that they are expanding the model to include charter schools and possibly some public schools. This could potentially increase Horizons’ expansion even faster!

As we celebrate our 21st summer, Horizons at Colorado Academy is one of the longest-standing affiliates. There are not too many of us out there, so it was great to connect with other affiliates that are similar, as well as those that are in different stages of their development.

The mission

What is truly amazing is the dedication that the teachers, executive directors, program officers, development officers, board members, and everyone who is part of the Horizons model has to the mission of the program—to level the playing field and transform the lives of low-income, underrepresented students. It felt so nice to be in the company of fellow Executive Directors who understand exactly what it takes to run a program like this and to feel supported by the Horizons National staff in such a helpful, compassionate way.

I was fortunate enough to attend the conference with Dr. Rennie Howard, a Horizons at CA Advisory Board member who has a long-standing connection to Horizons and is our board affiliate representative, as well as Jessica (Jessi) McCoy, CA’s Second Grade teacher who volunteers with Horizons in the summer to run a Caine’s Arcade workshop. Caine’s Arcade was created by a little boy in East Los Angeles who used cardboard to make interactive games. Jessi did the workshop with Horizons students last summer and will be working with Horizons Third Graders this coming summer. She was invited to do a presentation on Caine’s Arcade for Horizons educators at the conference, and it was a huge success.

Rennie connected with long-time friends (she grew up in Connecticut where the program was founded and has been actively involved in Horizons for many, many years). In fact, Rennie told me that when she moved to Denver, discovering that CA had a successful Horizons program strongly impacted her decision to send her kids to CA!

One of the most memorable experiences of the conference was to hear the presentation on equity by the guest speaker, Dr. Vijay Pendakur. Dr. Pendakur serves as the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students at Cornell University. It was one of the most profound speeches I ever heard and very eye-opening. One of my biggest takeaways was:

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One of my main goals for this summer program is to work on ensuring that each Horizons student gets to feel this deep sense of place and community. I will work with staff, as a team, to do what we can to impart this sense of belonging for all of our students.

I will leave you with one final thought. The CA community should be proud to have such a life-changing program in its midst. It is a testament to the compassion and dedication to the community at large that CA has embraced throughout the years and continues to support, now and into the future.