Less than half of RCSD students graduate on time, if at all. Starkly unequal academic achievement and attainment fuel the ongoing impoverishment of our city’s children and future residents. Research demonstrates that the earlier we can expose children to high-quality out-of-school experiences, the better. We want to be part of the solution in closing that achievement gap!
Horizons at Warner is approaching its eighth summer of programming; we have grown from serving thirty to one hundred forty–five students. The Horizons at Warner K-8 Summer Program offers urban children a welcome change from their standards-driven public school environment where emphasis is often placed on testing rather than learning. During our six-week full day program, Horizons at Warner faculty instills a love of reading, learning, and exploring. They raise their students’ aspirations, expose them to the possibilities life holds, and help them believe in themselves through authentic and meaningful learning experiences.
The program is designed to allow our new entering kindergarten class each summer to attend for nine successive summers of high-quality academics blended with arts, sports, cultural enrichment, field trips, and confidence-building activities. Each summer the academics are integrated through a theme. Students also have the opportunity to select a workshop for a summer long interaction where they develop an interest and expertise in such disciplines as sewing, bookmaking, tennis, piano, robotics, gardening, dance, programming, chemistry biology, documentary making and photography.
We offer family engagement events throughout the school year and partner with the Rochester Center for Community Leadership to provide a school year Saturday tutoring program on the U of R campus. Our new First LEGO team competed this fall in the Finger Lakes LEGO League Tournament. Fifteen students are participating in an at-home reading program using iPads. We have instituted a teacher assistant training program for our graduates who then return the following summer as employees.
The close relationships developed between families and Horizons staff, along with engaging instructional approaches, help lead city students in the program to reach their fullest potential. Horizons at Warner is made possible through the generous support of corporations, foundations, and individuals throughout the Greater Rochester area.
We have developed a unique and exciting middle school program for our seventh and eighth-grade students. These students will become members of the “Transition Team,” where they will be supported in building strong identities, mastering academic skills, managing stress, and regulating emotions; the necessary elements, we believe, for a successful transition to high school. Lead by two full-time teachers and a cadre of part-time experts we will offer a range of experiences to meet our goals. Our two lead teachers have been successful at motivating and teaching critical comprehension with our middle school students.
A consultant team has been hired for their ART-ID project where our students will engage with the visual, literary, and performing arts as a vehicle through which to explore their cultural and ethnic histories so as to inform the development of their identities. A highly successful RCSD math teacher has been contracted to develop T-180 calculator literacy through the playing of games and authentic calculator experiences. It is widely known that the Math 1 Regents can be passed with T-180 calculator skill and little math knowledge! Mindfulness practices will be shared and rehearsed daily. Finally, our swim teacher for the “Transition Team” is also a school counselor. She will facilitate small group meetings for role playing and strategizing the management of emotions, emotional responses and organizational skills. Their afternoons will continue, as in previous summers, in multi-age groups exploring topics of their choices.
Each Friday when the entire program takes a field trip connected to the summer program’s theme, the “Transition Team” will instead embark on their own field trip. Their field trips will be geared to delve deeper into the theme and to be more developmentally appropriate to their older age. For example, this summer our theme is performance and we plan to provide an evening theater experience at Art Park in conjunction with a visit to Freedom Crossing where storytellers share the rich history of the western NY region in the Underground Railroad. They will also experience a dining and hotel stay, for which many this will be a first.
Additionally, we are extending our programming into ninth grade by offering a workforce preparation curriculum. Of the 11 graduates from last summer, 9 have already registered for our “Teacher Assistant In Training (TAIT)” program for this summer. These TAIT students will attend Horizons daily spending the first hour in job skills training with the executive or assistant director. The remainder of their day will be spent as a volunteer in their assigned classroom as a member of the teacher team. Every student who successfully completes the program will be guaranteed a teacher assistant position for subsequent summers. Thus, we are ultimately not only preparing our students for success in school but also successful employment!