Expanding Equity During Black History Month and Beyond

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February is Black History Month! While we celebrate Black history year-round, this time is dedicated to honoring the countless Black individuals, past and present, whose work continues to inspire others, drive positive change, and advocate for equity for all. As we acknowledge this month with our Black Voices in Education and Future History Makers series', we're also reflecting on our work to advance equity in communities across the country.

At Horizons, we believe that it is essential to elevate a culture of equity, inclusion, and belonging. This not only means helping provide equitable learning opportunities for students -- it also means providing ongoing opportunities for our students, families, and communities to be involved in decisions that affect them. As our Network continues to grow and welcome more diverse voices, we are determined to ensure that all members of our community feel represented in Horizons' current and future goals.

But what does this really look like in action? Guided by our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Framework, a foundational lens through which we approach and evaluate all of our present and future work, Horizons National and our programs work closely with Horizons students and families, program Directors and staff, teachers, Board members, alumni, and community partners.

At Horizons National, with the ongoing support of our community, we have recently

  • Conducted surveys, interviews, and focus groups of Horizons stakeholders to gather input and ideas into our EDI resources and products
  • Ensured that all of our external and internal communications were asset-based by developing the Horizons’ Strength-Based Messaging Guide: a communications guide to help our Network be grounded in more inclusive, equitable language
  • Developed a Horizons National Board Equity Plan: a living document that covers everything from board recruitment practices & retaining diverse membership, to EDI trainings and CEO evaluation
  • Established, and continue to facilitate and support task forces and working groups of Horizons affiliate leadership and staff to address affiliate EDI work:
    • Network Task Force for Equity and Access: platform for affiliate leadership to discuss, examine, and reimagine the Horizons Network through an equity lens

      • Subgroup Affiliate Task Force for Equity and Access: reviews and provides input to ensure Horizons Network policies and practices are grounded in EDI

    • Culturally Responsive Working Group: helps to identify culturally appropriate/relevant resources and professional development for Horizons teachers and staff
    • Strength-Based Messaging Working Group: provides input into resources and trainings, identify challenges, review materials related to strength-based messaging
    • Horizons National Staff EDI Working Group: identifies professional development and formal/informal EDI training opportunities for HN staff

At our programs, Horizons students, families, and teachers have various opportunities to impact decision-making:

  • Many programs have facilitated the development of Family Councils to help guide programming, and/or have welcomed Horizons family members onto their site's Board of Directors
  • Many programs have also facilitated Student/Alumni Councils as ways for young people to give continuous program input
  • At the end of every summer session, Horizons students, families, and staff Network-wide are surveyed about program satisfaction, connectedness, inclusion, and more
  • Horizons does not have a set curriculum, allowing teachers to create student-led classrooms and direct each summer's themes, lessons, and activities

Expanding equity is central to Horizons' mission, and we continue to explore new ways to engage Horizons students, families, and communities in learning and sharing together. Stay tuned this Black History Month as we share stories of some of the incredible Horizons educators working to increase educational equity for students and families!

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