Student Success

Summer AmeriCorps VISTA Member Reflection

The mission of Horizons Atlanta is important to me (Christina Ward) in various ways. I come from a low socioeconomic background in which many of the students in the program are as well. It is important that these students not only continue gaining knowledge throughout the summer, but to also broaden their own horizons. Many students cannot afford such opportunities on their own and Horizons Atlanta most definitely tries its best to eliminate barriers that hinder students from being left out having a vigorous, adventurous, and academically challenged summer.

Please describe any growth you observed in a Horizons scholar that you observed during your term of service.

At the Horizons Atlanta with Purpose Built Schools site, one student in particular who never got in the swimming pool and dreaded going each week. However, towards the last week, one of the assistant teachers promised a special treat for the student if he did well in the pool. The student went swimming and went back to the program with joy just as the teachers celebrated him for conquering his fears. This moment alone showed how teachers are often students biggest supporters.

What was your favorite programmatic element at Horizons Atlanta with Purpose Built Schools?

I personally enjoyed the concept of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Mood Meter. We teach social and emotional learning at Atlanta Public Schools in our special Education Department. I think this activity helps guide positive behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors. It also allows teachers to communicate with students about the emotions they may be feeling and why they feel how they feel. The continuous method of checking up on they mood meter helps teachers find alternative ways for happiness so that each child choosea good mood on the meter by the end of the day.

Describe something you observed during summer programming that affirms Horizons Atlanta’s mission.

Horizons Atlanta summer enrichment program does a great job at trying to close achievement gaps. One student was a third grader who lack the ability to read fluently. However, with the constant practice of sight words to build phonemic awareness, he began to grasp the concepts of letters and the formation of words at a much faster pace than perhaps what he presented at the beginning of the year program which boosted his confidence in reading.

What is something people may not know about Horizons Atlanta that you think we should share more broadly?

I think more people and supporters should find out more about the Horizons Atlanta 100% Club so that more students can attend financial free.

How did you personally grow during your term of service as a Horizons Atlanta AmeriCorps VISTA member?

Being an part-time Summer AmeriCorps VISTA this summer, I was able to grow professionally. I networked with many teachers and discussed my plans as a future teacher. Some teachers gave me resources for teaching and they also volunteered to help me during my student teaching process if needed I also learned more skills on classroom management through observation.

by Christina Ward   |    |  Comments 

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