“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision; the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie
Nowhere is this statement more true than in Rochester, New York, where city, school district, and Rochester area leaders are collaborating with providers to increase summer learning opportunities for low-income public school children.
Rochester is one of six cities participating in The Wallace Foundation’s multi-year, $50 million initiative to test the long-term effects of summer learning on student performance.
With 12,000 students enrolled in some form of summer learning, Rochester is a model for communities focusing on the outstanding positive impacts of summer academic enrichment, and Horizons is right in the middle of it!
Horizons first landed in Rochester in the summer of 1995 at the Harley School. As one of the first programs in Horizons’ initial expansion efforts, the Harley School now serves 135 low-income public school students every summer and acts as a mentor and role model for other programs in the network.
With more than 17 successful years of transforming the lives of underserved children through Horizons, the Harley School, led by Head of School Tim Cottrell and Horizons at Harley Board Chair, Conger Gabel, became a catalyst for innovative community collaboration. Driven by a desire to serve more students, Harley began looking for partner schools to host Horizons programs. With few independent schools in the area, Cottrell and Gabel had to look outside the box; they turned their attention to Rochester’s higher education institutions and began spreading awareness about Horizons.
Cottrell and Gabel invited several higher education administrators to visit the Horizons program during the summer. When these administrators showed enthusiasm for partnering, Harley began aggressive fundraising efforts to help start other Horizons programs. In summer 2010, with support from funders including Joseph and Nancy Briggs, David and Shirley Kearns, and the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation, Harley joined forces with the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education to run a pilot program, which in 2011 became the 20th Horizons program. In addition, two 2011 pilot programs at Nazareth College and Monroe Community College will become official Horizons affiliates in the summer of 2012.
Cottrell describes the transformative impact of Horizons: “The opportunity to change lives by what you do comes but rarely and you have the perfect combination of something that works incredibly well for the community and also for the school”.
So what’s in it for colleges and universities? A lot. When asked about what attracted her to Horizons, Anne Kress, President of Monroe Community College, said, “The national education agenda includes a focus on two critical goals: college readiness and student completion. Horizons offers an exemplary program that supports both goals and provides an incredible opportunity for the college to be a true partner in improving student success within our community. Housing our Horizons program on campus also allows students, from the time they’re Kindergartners, to see themselves in college, to know that this is something they can do and a place where they belong. This experience is sure to influence their future educational paths- to the benefit of the entire community.”
Cottrell and Gabel's innovative thinking and ceaseless efforts to serve more at-risk students combined with enthusiasm from administrators such as President Kress, Dean Rafaella Borasi of the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester, and Dean Tim Glander of the Nazareth College School of Education, have led Rochester to blaze a new frontier for the entire Horizons network. Horizons National is continuing to learn about the many reasons the program works in colleges and universities. Stay tuned!
Jane Stoddard Williams can’t remember a time when she wasn’t involved in the work of Horizons. She and her brothers attended the Connecticut school that gave birth to the Horizons program, the New Canaan Country School, where their mother was a teacher. Years later, Jane became an active board member for Horizons at New Canaan and, in 2000, was appointed its designee to the board of Horizons National. Today, she is the Chair of the Horizons National Board of Directors. During Jane’s tenure on the Board, Horizons has developed into a national leader in the summer learning field and the Horizons network of affiliates has grown from 11 sites in 2000 to an expected 26 sites in the summer of 2012.
Jane’s entire family is involved with the work of Horizons in one way or another. Her brother, Dan, serves on Horizons National’s Investment Committee and her children have worked with Horizons students. She and her husband, NBC’s Brian Williams, consider Horizons their family’s cause.
Jane’s passion for education and advocacy for children runs deep. Her grandfather was a prominent school superintendent in several major cities and her father was Chairman of the School Board in New Canaan. Jane chairs the Education Committee of the Board at WNET, New York’s PBS station. She spent most of her career working in television and radio, and currently produces and hosts Bloomberg EDU, a weekly look at education in America. (Listen to her June, 2011, conversation with David Von Drehle, Time Magazine’s editor-at-large, on The Downside to Summer Vacation.)
Sitting at the helm of Horizons National’s Board of Directors, Jane is continually struck by the commitment and talent of her fellow board members. “To be part of this large group of dynamic, committed individuals is humbling,” she says. “The work we have accomplished together is incredible.”
According to Horizons National CEO Lorna Smith, “Without Jane’s leadership, Horizons wouldn’t be what it is today. She has been central to our ability to expand successfully, allowing Horizons to make a significant impact on narrowing the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids through summer learning.”
Here’s what Jane Williams has to say about Horizons’ recent growth, her favorite thing about Horizons, and what the future holds.
What could other organizations learn from Horizons?
At Horizons, we’re always torn between wanting to serve as many kids as possible and being sure that we execute in the best way for each child. I believe in our thoughtful approach and wish every child could experience a Horizons program.
The Horizons team knows exactly what it takes to implement a program effectively – right down to how many conversations need to take place prior to implementation. I’m continually amazed and impressed by CEO Lorna Smith and the rest of the leadership team at Horizons and how well they manage the organization, especially at a time of rapid expansion. Ultimately, I’d love for Horizons to be able to share these lessons with anyone thinking about doing something similar.
What’s your favorite thing about Horizons?
Two things, really. First, I love the fact that Horizons has always been committed to working with the whole child. Providing the best possible experience for every child is what Horizons is about, and that includes academics, of course, and field trips, swimming, arts, and music. The teachers are serious, the kids are learning, and they’re having a ton of fun.
I’m also extremely moved by the lasting learning community created by Horizons programs across the country. For these kids and their families, life can really be challenging and Horizons is there for them year after year, offering students the opportunity to attend for nine consecutive summers. The continuity really makes a difference.
What do you see on the horizon for Horizons?
We’re well on our way to being the organization we want to be. Our goals are to reach out to more children, serve the children in our program even better, and share what we learn with others. It’s very exciting for Horizons to be part of the national summer learning conversation and to play a role in closing the achievement gap across the country.
The work of Horizons National would not be possible without the support of our committed funders. This is the first in a series highlighting some of these incredible partners. The Jeniam Foundation is a Horizons National founding funder whose impact extends far beyond its monetary support. This story is one of a unique partnership that has helped shape the work of Horizons National since its inception.
Andrew Clarkson, lead trustee of the Jeniam Foundation, remembers the moment Horizons National took shape. It was 1993, and he had been supporting the 25-year old Horizons summer program at New Canaan Country School (NCCS) in Connecticut for several years. He and NCCS board member, Stephanie Antoszewski, thought, "why shouldn’t this incredible program be a national endeavor?"
That year, the Jeniam Foundation, named after Andrew’s daughter Jennifer and his son William, provided an anonymous grant to launch Horizons National. Jeniam has been a funder and partner ever since.
Andrew recently recalled how invested he has felt in this work since the beginning. “We don’t like just writing checks,” he said. “We like to be involved in the work of the organizations we sponsor, and use our funds to leverage more.” Though a relatively small foundation, Jeniam’s financial support for high-impact projects has been essential to Horizons’ expansion.
One of Andrew’s favorite “value-added” projects was the development of Horizons’ reading program in 2008. Jeniam’s grant that year supported equipment and curriculum and provided the funding to incorporate STAR reading assessments for Horizons students. The program measures students’ reading skills and the diagnostic results enable teachers to tailor instruction to each student's individual needs. Jeniam’s support helped Horizons expand the use of STAR assessments from one site in Washington, D.C. to several affiliate sites around the country.
Another was the introduction of the Lyn McNaught teaching awards in 2004. The awards, named for Horizons at New Canaan’s longtime executive director, recognize outstanding, creative teachers who serve as role models for students while encouraging the potential of each child and fostering a life-long love of learning. Three teachers receive this award each year.
“The Jeniam Foundation literally helped get Horizons National off the ground,” expresses Horizons National CEO Lorna Smith. “Not just through their unique approach to funding, but with their vision and passion to provide children with opportunities.”
Tripp Killin, Jeniam Foundation’s current Executive Director, reinforces the organization’s belief in Horizons’ mission. “The work they do is absolutely essential to addressing the achievement gap and providing opportunities to children less well off in our society.”
Under his direction, Jeniam continues to fund projects that yield big results. Most recently, Jeniam provided critical support to jumpstart Horizons’ expansion strategy, increase its national visibility, and facilitate outreach to bigger national foundations.
The Jeniam Foundation is enthusiastic about continuing their partnership with Horizons to help us meet our expansion goals. Andrew sums it up sincerely, “Being one of the first funders of Horizons National means a lot to me personally. Having been there in the beginning, I really want to see it through.”