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The Heart of Horizons

When you think of February at Colorado Academy, you may well find yourself thinking of Horizons. After all, for many years, Wine and Dine comes to campus each February: an awesome fundraiser benefiting Horizons at CA and celebrating our Horizons students; featuring exceptional food and drink donated by some of Denver’s best restaurants (all, by the way, CA families); and including an incredible silent auction and paddle raiser full of fun and also full of meaning as a Horizons student takes the stage to share what our program has meant to him or her. It’s a night that finds participants in laughter and in tears and in awe of a program with students full of wisdom, courage, and most of all, heart. That this annual fundraiser occurs in a month all about hearts seems more than fitting. The 14th, after all, is an inevitable February feature.

This year, in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we are exceptionally fortunate to celebrate our 20th anniversary at CA as co-hosts/beneficiaries of the biannual CA Auction. Co-chaired by Horizons volunteers and extraordinary leaders and CA parents Jocelyn Ege and Amy McPheeters, the “Escape to the Islands Auction and Soirée” brings the community-wide fundraiser and celebration ‘home’ to a transformed Newton Gymnasium; it also features aspects of traditional Wine and Dine evenings. Benefiting both Horizons and CA’s Financial Aid funding, the evening will honor the ways the CA and Horizons missions reinforce one another and emphasize the great work our students do, always.

And yet, despite February’s slight shift (at least in terms of Horizons traditions), one of the month’s features is consistent: whether Valentine’s Day or not, Horizons students have heart — and they’re also at the heart of Horizons. Our focus is on providing them with our very best opportunities to learn in all kinds of situations, whether on a Super Saturday or in the 6 weeks they’re with us each summer.

We know that the voices and the stories that best capture the heart of Horizons belong to our students as well as to those who surround and support them. In the coming months, both in articles like this, on our developing Horizons blog, and on our Facebook pages, you’ll be hearing from those who “know Horizons.” Whether students or families or alumni/ae, whether Horizons Club members or volunteers past or present, whether Horizons at CA instructors and staff or Board members who’ve been a part of Horizons programs at CA and elsewhere: so many have a story to share. Those stories will tug at hearts at times and will always attest to the exceptional wisdom and courage that our students display, day in and day out, at Horizons and beyond.

You’ll learn, for instance, about a young woman who reached out, nearly 20 years later, to ask if “Horizons is still there. I remember Miss Jenny Leger …. would have an apron with pockets full of poems. She was great.” All these years, all possible kinds of adventures in between, and still, a Horizons Director who cherishes children and words and the power of poems was foremost in someone’s memories of growing up learning.

You’ll hear about Horizons graduates who, after several years in the workforce or being at home, have decided to return to get their college degree. You’ll hear of how one remembered that Horizons had long ago promised she could apply for a small scholarship if she continued her education. Once she was ready to return to her education, Horizons was the first step and stop on her journey.

You’ll learn about several Horizons students — some from the recent past and some from this year — who have received full-ride scholarships to the colleges of their choice. For some, the generosity of the Daniels Foundation has meant they are fully supported Daniel Scholars.

In other cases, they’ve had the support of the Latin American Education Foundation’s stipend, while some of their peers have had complete funding from a wide range of universities. In each case, the university or agency has been eager to work with brilliant, dedicated, and stellar students — inside and out — who’ve overcome enormous obstacles to achieve their education. Whether those challenges have involved undiagnosed learning disabilities that the Horizons team helped them to address or literacy issues at home or language barriers or extraordinary personal circumstances, our Horizons students have more than risen to the occasion; their courage (and wisdom and heart) has been noticed. They’re stars at their new academic homes, and we are inordinately proud of the work they’ve done.

You’ll read about former and current CA students who’ve found their lives changed forever, thanks to working with a Horizons student.

Over the holidays, for instance, Horizons at CA received a very generous gift from a company in Washington, D.C. that gives a (very substantial) donation to the nonprofit of each employee’s choice. As it turns out, one of CA’s 2010 graduates asked that Horizons benefit on his behalf.

He’d worked as a summer intern during his time at CA: Horizons legacy to him clearly left its imprint on his heart, and now he’s leaving his own imprint on Horizons.

These stories recall the differences a program like Horizons can make. As we continue our 20th year at Colorado Academy, we’ll share more and more anecdotes of pride about our students, including those now in the workforce and/or in graduate school. You’ll hear about our CA students who’ve gotten involved in the Horizons Club and see it as a part of their ‘CA Circle.’ You’ll meet moms and dads and siblings who cherish Horizons as much as their Horizons student does, whether because of the difference made in health or activities or academic skills or leadership or simply a young adult’s confidence.

Horizons faculty and staff will share information about what led them to work with Horizons and why, at the end of each day and even each year, they can’t envision themselves anywhere *but* Horizons as part of each year’s programs. You’ll even meet donors who’ll discuss why Horizons consistently emerges as a top priority for funding, and you’ll discover opportunities that those donors and their gifts have created.

You’ll learn, in other words, a great deal, all in honor of Horizons’ 20 years at Colorado Academy. You’ll celebrate our students as the heart of our program, and you’ll see why and how they’ve won the hearts of so many who work with them to achieve their potential.

Most of all, you’ll recognize that a large part of Horizons at CA’s key to success — whether measured by academic skills gained or college admissions or smiles from a once-tentative but now-awesome swimmer — is helping students unlock their potential and believe in themselves.

One thing’s for sure: whether you associate February with Valentines or with Vail, with Wine and Dine or with winter’s bitterest storms, you’ll associate Horizons, always, with heart: the hearts of our generous volunteers, our extraordinary donors, our great Horizons families, and, most of all, some of the finest students we know. They’re at the heart of Horizons, for always and for good.