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My Journey from ESL Classes to Berry College

Posted on by Suleima Millan, Horizons at HIES Alumna

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.