Horizons is Ready to Support Students
In a year of interrupted, inconsistent, and often virtual learning, when a majority of students didn't have the same access to resources such as laptops and WiFi, COVID-19 only further illuminated opportunity gaps that have always existed, and these barriers disproportionately impacted communities of color.
With the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan and the inclusion of the Summer Learning & Enrichment Collaborative, there is a record amount of funding available for learning recovery. However, we need to ensure this funding does not go to waste and that it intentionally addresses learning gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. This means prioritizing existing programs like Horizons that are ready to support students' recovery, not just this summer but over the long-term.
In fact, research proves that out-of-school time programs, when attended over consecutive summers, improve students' math and reading scores, accelerate learning gains, support their social and emotional development and well-being, and lead to higher graduation rates. We see these successes reached by Horizons students every day, year after year, like when they gain an average of 6-10 weeks of grade equivalence in reading and math over one summer or set and achieve positive personal goals.
We already know well-designed out-of-school learning programs like ours are proven to reverse the summer slide. And today, Horizons also represents the best solution for addressing the significant effects of lost time in school, including both academic losses and lack of social development for children, created by the pandemic.
Horizons programs are ready to support students in recovery by:
- Prioritizing social-emotional learning and whole-child approaches
Nationwide studies have shown that students indicate increased mental health stress, plus higher rates of absenteeism or disengagement in school due to the pandemic. After a year of remote learning and isolation, Horizons programs are focused on building relationships and providing opportunities for students to connect with educators, peers, and caring adults. Many programs have also engaged mental health professionals to ensure students have safe spaces to express themselves.
- Centering race equity
Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of school closures and remote learning, and many BIPOC and Asian American students have experienced trauma as a result of racial injustice. Horizons programs are committed to ensuring that every student has equitable opportunities not only to learn, but to contribute to and find success in a caring, supportive community. As we work to make our organization and programming more inclusive and equitable, we are intent on including the voices of the students, families, and communities we serve.
- Partnering with families and communities
Engagement with families and communities is essential to creating equitable, effective out-of-school time programs. Families know their children best, and involving them in program decisions as Board members or on a Parent Council can help a Horizons site tailor their program to the needs and interests of their students. Similarly, in partnering within their local community, sites access a range of expertise and opportunities for field trips, guest speakers, funding, and more, forming long-term relationships and increasing community investment in the Horizons program. Many sites bring both families and the community together at events like annual student celebrations, a great way to highlight the power of these partnerships.
- Understanding the importance of fun in the summer
This year, students haven’t just missed out on learning – they’ve also missed opportunities to play, socialize, and just be kids! One of the hallmarks of Horizons programs is fun: finding new passions, exploring different contexts and environments, playing games, and making friends. Though academic recovery will be essential, after a challenging year, students deserve a summer full of joy and connection – and this goes for teachers, too! Horizons teachers often say that teaching with the program renews their energy, with new training opportunities and the creative freedom to build their own curriculum.
When we invest in programs like Horizons, students, families, and teachers from every community stand to benefit, and the opportunity is now. With an unprecedented challenge ahead, in this moment we have the opportunity to make valuable summer experiences the rule rather than the exception. Together, we can create positive, supportive, and enriching post-pandemic educational experiences for all children, so students can recover from COVID learning loss – and excel even further ahead.