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Reflecting on a Summer Well Spent

August 2, 2017

After spending ten years in DeKalb County public schools, I relocated to a private school in Buckhead for my high school years. My private school experience was starkly different from that in public schools, as I had ostensibly unlimited resources at my disposal, instructors who were not overstretched and could therefore focus on the specific needs of individual students, and scores of counselors, advisors, deans, and admins who were always available for counsel. Towards the end of high school I accepted an offer to attend Georgia Tech on a scholarship. Little did I know, this would expose me to somewhat of a mélange of my public school and private school experiences - one for which I was very well prepared.

Unfortunately, most students don’t have the ability to switch from public to private school on a whim, even when such a move is clearly necessary. While my parents weren’t planning to send me to a private high school, I was fortunate in that they made the sacrifices necessary to facilitate my move. For those who aren’t as fortunate, however, options are few and far between. Summer and afterschool programs like Horizons Atlanta exist to supplement academic programming for students whose options are more limited. I knew of programs such as Horizons prior to my summer internship with the program, but it was not until I immersed myself in my work with Horizons Atlanta as a volunteer that I realized the scope and potential of supplemental enrichment programs.

I happened upon the internship somewhat serendipitously, as I was planning to spend the summer between my graduation from Georgia Tech and my start date at Deloitte Consulting doing anything but “work,” but meetings with peers and mentors who were already involved with Horizons Atlanta led me to seek and commit to a summer of volunteer work. My summer experience with Horizons Atlanta has included front-line activities like serving as a Mystery Reader (which I strongly recommend to anyone looking to get involved), visitors days at several of the nine programs operated under Horizons Atlanta, and other events, as well as more behind-the-scenes tasks including: customer relationship management and website revamps; fundraising initiatives; building relationships with donors, board members, and other members of the Horizons universe; and event planning. I have seen firsthand just how much value Horizons Atlanta contributes to its community - and I couldn’t be more excited about both the organization’s future and my continued engagement with Horizons Atlanta.

As my summer experience at Horizons Atlanta comes to a close, I cannot help but picture the countless smiling faces I’ve seen on students, volunteers, donors, board members, and everyone else involved in any way with Horizons Atlanta. It is my sincere hope that I can continue to give back to this smile- and opportunity-creating organization as I transition into my job at Deloitte Consulting.  

Thank you for an incredible summer. I hope and firmly believe that it is the start of something much, much bigger! 

Zach Steinfeld

by Zach Steinfeld  | 

My Journey from ESL Classes to Berry College

I vaguely remember how challenging school was for me before I joined Horizons Atlanta at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. I was a shy student who rarely spoke so I was relegated to English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Today, I’m a college sophomore majoring in sociology and minoring in French.  

 

Things began to change when I joined Horizons Atlanta at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. For 10 summers, I received educational guidance and support that took my life in a different direction. Learning about the world outside my daily environment, receiving one-on-one attention, and being encouraged to take on new challenges had an incredible impact on me! I learned to think differently. My Horizons teachers made me believe that I didn’t have to be a stereotype. I gained a love of reading and learning about the world that will stay with me forever.

When I was invited to blog post about my Horizons experience, one of the first things I recalled was the way our instructors encouraged and supported us while they challenged us to achieve. One summer, the director promised to shave his head if our class met our reading goal. We ended up surpassing it and sure enough, he had his head shaved at the front of the class! Another year, an instructor awarded us for surpassing a class goal by bringing a goat to class and giving it a kiss.

The support wasn’t always a grand gesture, but it was consistent. We were supported every day when our instructors engaged us and cheered our individual successes, and encouraged us to strive for more.

The support continued after each summer session. Since the Horizons teachers were from our local school, we could turn to them for support during the school year too. There were monthly Saturday classes where we could get concentrated help on our school work. Our site director and teachers also held festivals for us and our families during the holidays.

Horizons was a lot of work and also a lot of play! My classmates and I had so much fun in our weekly swimming classes (even if we were scared at first), and going on field trips to museums, the Botanical Gardens, and the World of Coke. I learned about the appreciate things that create a well-rounded person, including volunteering and participating in extracurricular activities. One summer during my middle school years, we even took a field trip to a shopping mall to practice applying for a job.

I have volunteered for Horizons Holy Innocents’ for three summers, and last summer I officially joined the staff as a middle school assistant teacher. I really loved giving back some of what I got through the program. While I don’t know what career path I’ll pursue after college, I know that I’ll continue supporting Horizons in any way that I can, and encourage others to as well.

by Suleima Millan, Horizons at HIES Alumna  |    |  Comments