This summer, through the establishment of its first high school program, the organization was able to extend this mission to nine high school students in the Sandy Springs area.
The nonprofit first began offering its summer program in 1999 as an affiliate of the National Horizons Student Enrichment Program Inc., with an inaugural class of just 12 kindergarteners. Today the program enrolls about 140 students each year, with this year’s total at 146 in kindergarten through ninth grade.
Discussions about the possibility of starting a high school program began almost two years ago, although it was not until a retreat with Horizons National in January that the issue gained serious consideration.
“We had been looking at ways to extend and grow our program and decided then that this was something we wanted to do,” said Scott Tucker, executive director of Horizons Atlanta.
Once the high school program became an official focus, the task of creating a new high school curriculum fell to High School Coordinator Katherine Perrotta. Perrotta, who teaches history courses at Georgia Perimeter College’s Dunwoody campus, began with the goal of establishing a program tailored to the interests and needs of high school students.
“I focused on trying to make everything as relevant as possible, as well as using activities that applied the skills they’re learning to real-life situations,” said Perrotta.
The main focus of the six-week summer program is exposing the students to different college and career opportunities. The class engaged in a wide variety of activities, including guest speakers, practice resume writing and visits to various colleges and career sites.
“So many of the kids don’t have an idea of what they want to do, and many have been told they don’t have the opportunity. We are trying to expose them to new opportunities, as well as show what is necessary to get there,” said Tucker.
There is also a large volunteer aspect to the program. Each day after completing their own objectives, the high school students are expected to help with the younger children during class time and activities.
“It is easy for us to relate to the younger kids, so we can help keep them interested in Horizons and their education,” said Dominique Rodriquez, a rising sophomore at North Springs Charter High School enrolled in the program.
After the completion of this inaugural year, the organization is already looking forward to improvements for next year. Horizons leaders hope to expand the range of activities, including plans to possibly set up a dual enrollment program for rising high school juniors at Georgia Perimeter’s Dunwoody campus. The overall success of the high school’s first year has proven the potential of the program, and set forth a trend that Horizons hopes to continue.
“It got [the students] to think about their strengths, goals and interests, which hopefully will eventually lead to more volunteer opportunities, internships and college acceptances,” said Perrotta.
On the Web: www.horizonskidsatlanta.org.