“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it,”
In late September 2018, when I first began as the interim Executive Director of Horizons at Colorado Academy, there was so much to do in such a short time—I had six weeks to put together the annual fundraiser, as well as get acquainted with the Horizons students, families, staff, and Board members. Of all the Board members, Mary Henning had been involved with Horizons from the beginning, and she made herself available to me right away.
After the fundraiser, I started to look at ways to execute the summer program for 2019. I quickly realized that there was a lot that had to be figured out. One big issue that came up was whether to let our 8th Grade students do a summer trip to Wyoming that had been a tradition for many years. In Horizons, 8th Grade is a big milestone, and the students in the class had been going to Broken Arrow Ranch and Yellowstone for quite some time. For me, I had to balance tradition versus our financial situation, which, at that time, forced me to look at all of our programming and see where we could save.
As I began to explore alternative options, Mary quickly made it clear that she would help in any possible way. She wanted to ensure that, as the new Executive Director, I would be welcomed by the community and the students, and she also knew that the students really looked forward to this trip. She was determined to find a way to make the trip happen. And that she did. Through the generous support of her sister, Elizabeth Boland, we were able to have our 8th Grade class go to Broken Arrow Ranch as planned.
This is just one of numerous examples that highlights how Mary cared so deeply about Horizons and our students. For 23 years, Mary nurtured Horizons. As a nurse at Knapp Elementary, she embraced Horizons’ mission and helped families understand what an incredible opportunity the program could be for their children. She sat on the Board for all of those years and was always available to me, as a new Executive Director, to lend an ear, get advice from, and simply hang out with. Mary was the kind of person who worked diligently, humbly, behind the scenes, fostering the idea that all children, no matter their background, have the right to a quality education and equal access to various opportunities to improve their lives.
She was most passionate about health and wellness, and in 2015, she started the Henning Health and Wellness program with the help of her sister, Elizabeth Boland. Through the years, our students have participated in many different health and wellness activities, all because of her extraordinary vision. The students have learned tae kwon do, lacrosse, stand up paddle boarding, tennis, yoga, and much more, creating some of the fondest memories our students have experienced during their time in Horizons.
To say that Mary Henning touched hundreds of students’ lives is no exaggeration. In our Board meeting shortly after Mary passed away, Jessica Nuñez-Hernandez, Horizons alumna, Knapp and Horizons teacher, and Horizons Board member, eloquently said that without Mary’s gentle guidance, many, many students would not have experienced Horizons throughout the years. Unsurprisingly, the flood of remembrances and wishes honoring Mary have continued to stream in from past Horizons Board members and staff, students, parents, and many others in the community that she impacted.
In my mind, the world would be a much better place if we could all learn from the Mary Henning handbook about how to be a caring, thoughtful, and compassionate person. Thank you to Mary for always inspiring others to be their best selves and to her incredible family for continuing to honor and cultivate Mary’s passion for Horizons. The world is significantly better because Mary was here, albeit too briefly. The Horizons at CA community looks forward to commemorating Mary’s legacy and will announce plans as they develop.