Every July, fourth graders race through a tunnel on Colorado Academy’s campus. When the students reach the end, their grins could light the darkest of skies. They deserve to smile. Getting to the end of this tunnel signals they’ve completed yet another summer and will continue for even more years as Horizons at Colorado Academy students.
As these students can attest, Horizons at CA is full of passages in every sense of the word. Sometimes, those passages can be bleak, such as knowing that your parents (or at least their incomes) have passed a “test” proving eligibility for free or reduced school meals (i.e., with incomes at or below poverty level).
Just as proving eligibility for affordable food may ironically feel less than rewarding, it’s also daunting to pass by swimming pools or lakes full of laughter and fun and even your own classmates and have your mom shake her head saying, “No, you can’t go swimming. You don’t have a suit. Admission costs too much. I don’t know how to swim, and your brother doesn’t know how to swim, and neither do you, and you might drown.”
Other simple pleasures also come hard or not at all. Take an emerging reader who loves books. He might pass a bookstore and rather than stopping in, walks quickly by, knowing he can’t have a new book of his own. Sure, the library has great books. Certainly, used book sales offer titles for as little as a quarter. But once in a while, a student might want to choose her own book, one to take anywhere and read and re-read without worrying about due dates, even one in which to take notes as she’s seen teachers do. For many Denver Public School students, passages like those above are all too real and have consequences, at best, awkward and at worst, threatening health and safety.
Yet for one group of Denver students, some tunnels end in light that represents far more than a cliché. These Horizons at CA fourth graders can’t wait to run through a human tunnel of raised arms and hands as everyone associated with Horizons builds a temporary passage, with all participants knowing that more than an ice cream party waits at the end (although that party really is awesome!).
Even a quick glimpse at Horizons at CA’s Summer 2016 highlights students’ opportunities to reinforce their journey to success, whether in Pre-K, fourth grade, or high school. During the six-week session, every student enjoyed CA’s Dining Hall meals, starting with breakfast each morning and including lunch and snacks, while ending the day with popsicles. Students also anticipated CA-prepared food packed for their weekly field trips, while middle and high schoolers whose trips included overnight campouts ate nutritious meals as well as participated in some traditional fun, such as toasting s’mores.
Annually, the abundant generosity of those running the CA Used Book Sale gives Horizons exceptional access to books that students adopt and cherish. Similarly, each November, the Barnes and Noble Book Sale benefitting CA also supports Horizons, as many donors buy new books for the program’s students. In 2016, middle-school Horizons students got a free copy of local author and CA alumnus parent Paul Aertker’s book Crime Travelers, along with two opportunities to workshop with Paul himself.
These students had extra inspiration from one of the first Horizons at CA graduates: their assistant teacher Jose Martinez, now enrolled in a master’s program while teaching and serving as an Assistant Athletic Director at a local school.
Horizons at CA offers multiple opportunities for athletics, in fact, but one program literally saves lives. Since the first Horizons affiliate’s founding in 1964, the organization has recognized a need to swimming education. At Horizons, swimming means far more than an enjoyable activity, and learning to swim ensures much more than feeling relatively safe in the water. Students learn perseverance. They learn patience. They learn to trust their teachers and coaches and lifeguards and, finally, themselves. At the end of the tunnel they’ve gone through to become swimmers, they learn to say, “I can do it.”
“I can do it.” When any one of us confronts a literal or figurative tunnel, we do our best to call up our self-confidence and remember that we can navigate a challenge successfully. Thanks to Horizons at CA, annually dozens of students remember and realize that they can do “it” — no matter what “it” means. Whether learning to conquer a math problem or figuring out how to build a campfire or mastering computer coding, students successfully navigate passages at Horizons and beyond.
For more information about how you can support Horizons at Colorado Academy, including as a volunteer, please contact Dr. Virginia Broaddus, Interim Chief Development Officer for Horizons at CA (Virginia.Broaddus@coloradoacademy.org). For information about Horizons at CA’s educational programs or enrolling in Horizons, please contact Jessie Skipwith, Education Director for Horizons at CA (Jessie.Skipwith@coloradoacademy.org).