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Student Feature: Liza, Horizons at Sacred Heart University

Liza first set foot on the campus of Horizons at Sacred Heart University at 6 years old, the summer before she entered first grade. Now almost 13, Liza has grown up spending every summer with Horizons, each filled with new opportunities to learn and make friends. “For every new summer, I’m excited about the field trips that we get to have, because sometimes we do exotic things, like for instance we went rock climbing and ice skating the past two weeks…it was really cool to get to experience that.”

Another new thing Liza experiences at Horizons is social-emotional learning (SEL), a big component of all programs. At Horizons at Sacred Heart University, students use the Mood Meter to identify and label their feelings, and create Classroom Charters to ensure that all students feel safe, welcomed, and heard. Students also have opportunities to take Brain Breaks, do journaling exercises, and build long-term relationships in and out of the classroom. For Liza, SEL has made a big difference in how she relates to her peers. “My favorite part of SEL is getting to know my classmates better, and my teachers better. Some people I don’t know, I get to know them better. It’s fun to have that connection, that we know that some things about us are the same, and some things are different. That’s kind of like a life lesson that you learn at Horizons, even if you’re just in kindergarten.” Since students return to Horizons year after year, Liza and her classmates have had continued opportunities to learn together since they began with the program in kindergarten. These strong bonds contribute to a deep sense of community, and make students excited to return to Horizons each year to reunite.

One of the best parts of Horizons, Liza shares, is that students and teachers are all learning together, and from each other. “We do lots of number talks in class, and number talks help us keep up our math and learning…And in number talks, we share our different ideas, and while we share our different ideas, we learn a lot from that. So, we’re learning from each other every day, we’re learning from the teachers every day. And the teachers are learning from us every day, because we can introduce them to a new type of math, because math has changed over the years and they might have learned something one way, and we learned it another way. And that’s how we teach the teachers, and the teachers teach us.”

When asked if she would want to return to Horizons as a volunteer or teacher once she graduates, Liza said, "oh, yeah. I'm not leaving this place."