It is mind-blowing to think that 25 years ago, Horizons at Colorado Academy started with a small and mighty cohort of 13 students in Kindergarten from Knapp Elementary. Fast forward to summer 2023 and we had a record-breaking 210 students from Pre-K through high school! Over the years, as an integral part of the Colorado Academy community, we have served hundreds of students from the Denver Metro area, providing enrichment opportunities that all students deserve but that not all students have access to.
In the spirit of celebrating 25 years of Horizons magic, we brought back some time-honored traditions like Ms. Jenny Leger’s (our first Kindergarten teacher from 1998 who went on to serve as Executive Director for 13 years) poetry apron that was gifted to Jessica Nuñez, our Program Director and resident poet. This summer, our students loved picking out poems from the apron’s pockets and hearing Ms. Jessica recite poetry. For our 29 alumni who worked with us this summer, many were brought to tears and filled with nostalgia when they saw the apron, flooding them with memories of Horizons when they were students in the program. We will be sure to keep this transcendent poetry apron tradition going for many years to come.
Another notable tradition that resurfaced this summer was the all-school Horizons gatherings on Friday afternoons. After a fun-filled day of field trips, our students gathered in the Schotters Music Center choir room to share stories of what their class had been working on or, for our middle school students, an overnight trip review. Our third graders made up a song about their experiences working in the Horizons garden, our Pre-K students sang a song in Spanish and English about the importance of being a good friend, and our sixth graders shared their stories of their overnight trip to an organic farm in Goldent, led by New Treks.
In terms of new activities that were introduced this summer, we partnered with Denver Test Prep, which provided interactive STEM programming that our elementary school students absolutely loved. We also were fortunate to bring back Cain’s Arcade with the help of CA teachers Jessi McCoy and Lizzie Rockmore. For the first time, with the help of our Board, we launched the Horizons Hustle, a field day in which we invited parents and community members to join us, so that they could see firsthand the skills our students learned in physical education and our Henning Health and Wellness Program. For our one-week high school program, we collaborated with the Salazar Family Foundation to create vision boards and tour CU Denver, and also did impactful, project-based work with CannonDesign and REDI Lab.
I feel confident in saying that our students went home every day having learned something new and established strong relationships with their peers and staff, and that they each felt like Horizons is there for them, an integral part of their lives and their family’s lives. Now that I have been here for five summers, I can safely say that Horizons is a gem, and that its impact on our students’ lives is significant. We are extremely grateful to all of our partners, especially the Colorado Academy community, for nurturing this transformational program for 25 years. We are hopeful to continue our partnership with CA and, if possible, expand the program to other sites around Colorado, so that more students have the opportunity to be part of this meaningful experience.