By Vera Woods, Academic Coordinator Horizons Atlanta at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
I’ve had the pleasure of being a Horizons staff member for more than 13 years at Horizons Atlanta at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, where I now serve as the Program Coordinator. I’ve been an educator for more than 35 years, and I recently retired from the Fulton County Schools system after teaching Kindergarten at High Point Elementary for 29 years.
My Horizons journey began with me teaching computer literacy and photography three days a week when the program was in its infancy. I was so inspired by the mission of Horizons and the educators who were building the inaugural program at Holy Innocents’. In the beginning, I worked three days a week and would tote in borrowed laptops and cameras for the students to use. As the program grew, I worked directly with teachers on instruction and administered reading assessments. Currently as program coordinator, I work in partnership with our Site Director and Parent Liaison, to build strong relationships with parents, students, Horizons educators and the surrounding community. Our site now serves more than 120 students from neighboring schools!
Every child chosen for the Horizons program is given the skills and confidence to believe that failure is not an option. I’m so blessed to have been a part of the Horizons family at Holy Innocents’ for so many years. We are a family that cultivates and grows each of our students socially, emotionally and academically every summer and throughout the year.
One of the most endearing things about our “Global Academy” is seeing our students take action by giving of themselves through community outreach. Each class is responsible for a citizenship project connecting to their grade level theme either locally or globally. The class projects have to focus on at least one of the following areas: Awareness, Advocacy or Direct Action. Last summer, the middle school students organized a car wash and donated proceeds to the Malala Fund to help girls around the world go to school and exercise their right to an education. Rising second grade students established a relationship with residents a nearby nursing home facility and visited them weekly. At the end of the summer session, the students and seniors exchanged handmade gifts. The whole program, including our parents, raised $500 through the combined efforts of a penny drive, lemonade stand, and snack sales, and donated it to the orphanage Home of Home in N'zerekore, Guinea. Students learned about the orphanage and organization from its founder, Holy Innocents' alum and former child refugee, Sam Johnson, who spoke to our students during the program.
I am proud to be a part of Horizons Atlanta at Holy Innocents' Episcopal School because we are empowering students to make a difference and become leaders in their respective schools, community, and the world in which they live.
I’m excited to share a few highlights of the Horizons at Atlanta Technical College Summer 2016 program, which was attended by 60 incredible rising first, second, third and fourth graders – our Horizons Scholars. First, though, I want to share the daily affirmation that our scholars recite during our six-week program:
Today I will reach beyond the Horizons I will use my mind to THINK I will use my voice to INSPIRE I will use my hands to CREATE and I will use my heart to LOVE I am a problem solver I can do anything I am a Horizons Scholar
These words don’t just set the tone and expectations for each day, they create a strong intention in our Scholars that stays with them at home, during the school year and when they are out in the world. In fact, the daily affirmation also has a positive impact on instructors, volunteers, and our scholars’ parents because it reinforces the commitment we all have to give these children the knowledge and experiences they need to compete and eventually go on to become career-ready, engaged leaders in their community. I’m so proud to be a part of the legacy being created by Horizons at Atlanta Technical College.
Now, onto our #6weeksofhappiness.
This summer in the Exploration Lab our rising first and second graders explored various careers that impact our community while learning more about the ecosystem and ways to protect it. In the Discovery Lab, rising third and fourth graders studied plants and nutrition while seeking answers to the question, “how can understanding the benefits of plans and healthy eating improve our quality of life?”. This question caused a lot of conversation over meals as our scholars discussed the nutritional aspects of their breakfast and snack options!
One of the many benefits of partnering with Atlanta Technical College is access to the school’s technology resources, particularly in our Media Production Lab where Horizons scholars investigated careers in media production. Rising first and second graders learned how to compose lyrics and produce a music video, while third and fourth graders got a hands-on experience in news broadcasting and journalism. Horizons scholars even debuted a newscast about their summer learning experience during our end of summer celebration featuring interviews with instructors and scholars.
Thanks to a grant from Dollar General, we launched Reading with Friends and Family (R2F), in order to instill a love of reading into our scholars. Each scholar was able to select and take home up to seven books this summer at no cost to their families, and each child’s parents received a copy of the book, “55 Best Ways to Compliment Your Child.” I can’t tell you how good it felt to hear from parents whose children were showing new interest in reading, staying up late to read, and sharing their books with siblings.
There are so many more wonderful stories to tell, but I’ll stop here for now. From the bottom of my heart, I thank our Horizons scholars, our staff and volunteers for making this another memorable summer.
Sharron McIntyre Site Director- Horizons at Atlanta Technical College