BY AMY PETROVICH
Horizons, a nonprofit organization located at Sacred Heart University, is actively helping students in the local Bridgeport area advance their education. After opening in 2011, the organization is now home to students in grades K-8 who are all on a path to a higher education.
Horizons utilizes a selection system in order to determine which students from the local Bridgeport schools are eligible to join the program. Once selected, students join a six-week summer program filled with activities and one-on-one tutoring.
“When we select students, we do not just pick the brightest. Most of our students are two-thirds below grade level and have a large financial need,” said Jamie Perri Horizons Executive Director. “Selecting classes is the hardest part of the job knowing that you’re going to disappoint some children and their families.”
The program itself focuses on teaching the students literacy, STEAM, arts, healthy living and swimming.
On their website it says, “Through the Horizons model, students achieve an average four months improvement in reading and math over the six-week summer session and a remarkable 91% of Horizons graduates attend college or other post-secondary training”
Horizons at Sacred Heart is just one of the 60 chapters of Horizons found throughout the nation. Horizons caters towards areas where there is a gap in available resources.
“An opportunity gap is very noticeable in Fairfield County. Bridgeport is severely under-resourced and our goal at Horizons is to cut that opportunity gap,” said Perri.
The Horizons summer program costs around $3,700 per student but completely covers that cost except a $30 application fee for all students joining the program. It is able to cover tuition within their budget partially due to Sacred Heart allowing them full access to their facilities.
“Sacred Heart has given us such an incredible gift by letting us use their space and administration free of charge. Without their support we would not be able to do it,” said Perri. “Sacred Heart’s involvement in Horizons is something that students can truly be proud of.”
Horizons is held within the Isabella Farrington College of Education at West Campus. Many grad students in the education master’s program apply to use Horizons for their practicum hours. Due to this, many undergrad students are unaware of the work that Horizons does throughout the community.
“As a Sacred Heart student, I was not aware of this program but I am proud that so many kids are being helped further their education,” said sophomore Breanna Santos.
The program at Horizons goes beyond just teaching skills in the classroom. The students are also provided opportunities to participate in various outdoor activities and have access to an arts program where music and visual arts are taught.
“Horizons seems like such a great program, especially knowing that the community surrounding our campus is benefitting from it,” said sophomore Claire McElhenny.
Horizons’ goal of helping students gain more knowledge and critical thinking skills is not limited to just the six weeks they are provided in their summer program.
According to the Horizons website, “We make a 12-year commitment to all of our students who enter in Kindergarten. Once your child is accepted, your child will return every summer through high school.”
Horizons is an organization that does not discriminate based on intelligence or income. They provide the students and children who need it the most the opportunity to grow.
“Kids are kids and they should get the same opportunities no matter what,” said Perri.