City School Students Reach New Horizons with Summer Enrichment Program

Horizons at Warner Begins Second Summer on River Campus

Kids huggingAt a time when budget cuts have scaled back after-school and summer programs across the country, the Horizons Program at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education is growing. Horizons at Warner: Enrichment Program for RCSD Students in Grades K-8, a six-week summer enrichment program, will host 81 city school students this year, up from 62 last year.
Horizons at Warner will bring together Rochester City School District students, from kindergarten to eighth grade, on River Campus from June 26 to Aug. 3 for a summer learning experience that blends high-quality academics with arts, sports, cultural enrichment and confidence-building activities. More than three-quarters of the students will come from John James Audubon School No. 33, with the rest coming from other city schools.
The Horizons at Warner program allows children from low-income families to engage in learning opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have during the summer months. The full-day program runs daily, providing students with an outlet to continue learning outside the traditional classroom and to engage in hands-on educational enrichment in math, reading, social studies, and literacy. This year, Horizons at Warner, themed Inventions, will help students put their creativity to the test as they invent prototypes that they will then present to the community at an Invention Convention on the program’s last day, Aug. 3. The summer enrichment program also will offer weekly afternoon field trips to various sites around Rochester that relate to the inventions theme.
Additionally, the program will launch a new workshop initiative that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) academics. These workshops, which will meet every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and be led by doctoral students from various departments at the University, teachers, and professional volunteers, will tap into children’s interests and connect to real-life activities, like moviemaking, bookmaking, crime scene investigations, furniture construction, cooking, chemistry, optics, rocketry, and LEGO® robotics.
 Students swimming
In addition to gaining academic skills this summer, all Horizons students will take part in daily swim lessons, helping them to make tremendous gains in self-confidence that will carry over into the classroom during the school year.
According to Executive Director Lynn Gatto, who leads Horizons at Warner, Horizons has been shown to address summer learning loss—a phenomenon in which students fall behind in reading and math skills during the summer—and help keep children excited about learning.
“Horizons students grow in skills and confidence and return to school each fall better prepared,” Gatto says. “By hosting Horizons on a university campus, we not only help to make the learning process a fun experience for children, but we also expose them to college, which in turn inspires them to set high goals for their education beyond high school.”
Horizons at Warner is an affiliate of the national non-profit called Horizons National, which currently serves thousands of students in summer enrichment programs across the country. Horizons at Warner was the first-ever Horizons affiliate nationwide to be housed on a college campus and the second Horizons affiliate to open in Rochester, N.Y. Today, Horizons at Warner is one of four Horizons affiliates in the Rochester area.
The program has made a great impact on Laquanda Simmons’ three children, who are returning this summer, along with her other two children who are starting Horizons at Warner for their first time.
“My kids have learned a lot academically from the program,” says Simmons, who can see the difference in their schooling, “and they have also learned a lot about teamwork and working together. They are excited about the program during the summer and can’t wait for it to start.”
Students have plenty of support throughout the program. Classes are led by paid certified teachers, with support from Warner graduate students studying to become teachers, education majors from local colleges, and high school students, who volunteer their time as teaching assistants. Children who attend the Horizons Program are given the opportunity to spend more than half of their summer with professional teachers who know how to engage students in critical thinking, reading, writing, and math experiences and keep them motivated about school.
City students are not the only ones who benefit from the program. Horizons teacher Mary Kokinda, who graduated from the Warner School in 2005 with a master’s in inclusive elementary education, says that working with motivated and dedicated educators from other school districts is a true opportunity for professional development. “I’ve learned from my Horizons colleagues and implemented some of their instructional and management techniques into my own classroom during the regular school year,” says Kokinda.
The Horizons at Warner program is part of the summerLEAP coalition along with The Harley School, Nazareth College, Monroe Community College, SUNY Geneseo, and EnCompass/Norman Howard School. Horizons at Warner is funded by Rochester-area individuals, organizations, and foundations, including the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation, Marie C. & Joseph C. Wilson Foundation, Rochester City School District, and the Joan and Harold Feinbloom Supporting Foundation and John F. Wegman Fund of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. Additionally, First Book, a non-profit organization, recently awarded Horizons at Warner 945 hardback children's books.
Students gardening
The goal is for the program to reach 135 students in kindergarten through eighth grade each year by 2014. Horizons is designed to allow new students to enroll into the new kindergarten class every year and current Horizons students to return each summer for meaningful and authentic learning experiences.
“At Horizons, I’ve seen the twinkle in the eyes of a young boy who has suddenly come to understand the number line during a math lesson,” adds Kokinda. “I’ve seen middle school students crave hours alone with a book because Horizons is an escape into a world they’ve come to love—one that’s full of people that support and encourage them to be their best self. It’s a great way to spend my summer.”
Founded in 1964, Horizons National has become a network of 26 program sites reaching 2,500 students across the nation. On average, Horizons students tend to improve three months in reading skills each summer and are far more likely to graduate from high school and attend college than they would be without the strong foundation support from Horizons. To learn more about Horizons National, visit www.horizonsnational.org. For more information about Horizons at Warner visit www.warner.rochester.edu/centersandresearch/go/Horizon or contact Lynn Gatto at (585) 739-1168 or lynngatto@rochester.rr.com
About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform. 
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Tags: Horizons, Lynn Gatto, summer enrichment, summer learning