Horizons Program Combats Summer Slide

By Lauren Wanko

They’re learning the days of the week, reading some of their favorite books, writing, even dancing. These young students are part of Horizons.

“It’s not a camp. It’s also not summer school. It’s somewhere in between and that’s part of why it’s such an easy sell to kids,” said Allison Williams.

Horizons is a six-week summer program offered to kids K-12. Some start as early as Pre-K. These students spend a full day at independent schools, colleges and universities. There are 45 programs in 15 states and the one at Philip’s Academy Charter School started in 2010.

The first Horizons program began more than 50 years ago at a school in Connecticut.

“It combats something called summer slide, which affects low income and English as a second language family kids disproportionately, which is completely unfair,” Williams said.

National Ambassador Williams and her family have championed Horizons for decades.

“It just always made sense to me. There’s something about utilizing preexisting infrastructure and kids that really need a little bit of a leg up and are totally deserving of all the same opportunities I had,” Williams said.

The students, who typically return summer after summer until they graduate high school, are taught by professional teachers. There are two programs in New Jersey — one in Newark, the other in Rumson. It’s tuition-free.

Horizons is primarily supported by private donations. Ninety-six percent of Horizons high school students graduate and go on to college. It’s something 5-year-old Aiyanah Vasquez is already thinking about.

“You go to classes and learn about stuff that you don’t know and you get smart and I like that you’re going to college,” she said.

When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, six-year-old Jamar Morris said, “I want to be a big grown up and work hard.”

Vasquez wants to be a doctor.

What kind of doctor? “A person doctor,” she said.

Other students have already become young authors of sorts.

“I made a book,” said Ehijie Ehikioya. Its name? “Breakfast.”

Horizons’ kids learn how to swim too. The program also focuses on STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. Six-year-old Lemuel Beckles loves that subject. He says he learned how to count to 100 at Horizons.

“I’m very excited to watch the kids from Horizons start to take over the country because trust me they will, and you just try to get in their way it’s not going to happen,” Williams said.