Horizons Celebrates Its Fifth Year

News Story: February 12, 2016

Horizons at Sacred Heart University has much to celebrate. Not only has the enrichment program, which mentors and supports youth from Bridgeport schools, grown, it has no plans of slowing down. To commemorate its fifth-year anniversary, the program will be hosting an array of events in 2016 to show people that success can be reached and achievement gaps can be diminished with the right tools and support.

Starting as early as March, Horizons at SHU, in affiliation with Horizons National, will hold several events to celebrate its anniversary and successes. There will be the planting of a community garden, a night of music, a celebration for National Giving Day, a summer showcase and much more. The events will include Horizons students and staff collaborating with SHU students and faculty.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Horizons,” said John J. Petillo, president of SHU. “I can remember when Horizons was established here on campus. It was a small program, but it had big goals. Horizons has grown so much in five years and has had a huge effect on the children and staff. The program is part of the SHU family now. We love having the kids around and seeing their smiles and determination. Our College of Education students provide tutoring, but we learn more than a thing or two from the children as well. We’re looking forward to participating in a number of celebratory events this year. There’s a lot to be proud of.”

The events throughout the year will celebrate the anniversary of the program, but also showcase the students’ talents and growth.

In March the Horizon students will build a community garden on campus with the nonprofit Green Village Initiative, a group from Bridgeport that works to create change through community gardens. The following month, musicians Bruce Hornsby and the Range will perform at a University gala and fundraiser, where Horizons students will open the show with the SHU choir. In May, the program’s National Giving Day celebration will hopefully raise the funds to continue to allow these students to overcome the education gap as well as to bring more children into the program.

Throughout the summer, children will participate in a several life-learning events ranging from reading with Dr. Petillo, step dancing and cooking with SHU’s dining services’ staff to doing research with the school’s marine biology class. The fun-filled summer will conclude with a community night packed with entertaining performances by the children.

In the fall more educational events are planned, including an instrumental petting zoo and a reading palooza.

Horizons at SHU started as a summer program on campus. The goal of the six-to-eight week program was to address summer learning loss in approximately 30 first- and second-grade students, a phenomenon where low-income children fall behind in reading and math skills in the summer, while middle-income students keep pace or jump ahead. This contributes to an achievement gap, leaving some low-income kids as much as three years behind by fifth grade. The program aims to have students gain reading and math skills during summer, and they learn to swim.

This same summer program, which continues to be housed on SHU’s campus, has grown to hold nearly 100 children in the first through fifth grades. Horizons also offers a Saturday academy in the fall and spring to provide students with continued learning, confidence-building and hands-on activities.

“We are a great national model for achievement and success,” said Jeffrey N. Rumpf, executive director of Horizons at SHU.  “The University is a great place to make social change … there’s tremendous support here, and people are excited about making that change. Everyone here sees what we’re trying to do, and they’re willing to work with the children to help.”

Students from Bridgeport public and Cathedral Education Cluster schools typically attend the program in kindergarten and don’t leave until they graduate high school. Rumpf said the children and their families work together as allies. He attributes the program’s success to this, along with the support from the University. The positive results are seen in the children’s gains in math and reading scores, the program’s high retention rates and the students’ success in enrichment programs such as martial arts, swimming, creative arts and golf.

During the summer and on Saturdays, students and staff of Horizons can be found on campus partaking in a number of activities. Rumpf said youth might be learning karate and showing off their board-breaking skills or they might want to talk about how their swimming lessons are going.  

For the community to fully understand and see the good work of Horizons, Rumpf invites people to join in on the upcoming anniversary events. “Whether they attend an event, volunteer or offer their good will, we want to build on that success,” he said.

While so much has been accomplished already, Rumpf has some big goals for the years to come, including increasing program enrollment to 200 students and designing a robust middle school and high school program with SHU.

“We want the kids to know they can achieve their dreams and that they’ll be well prepared to be excellent college students. They’ll have the education and the character to do so,” Rumpf said.

Calendar of events:

  • March 19: Children’s Garden Service Project with SHU Students and Green Village Initiative
  • April 23: Bruce Hornsby Concert – Edgerton Theater of the Performing Arts
  • May 12: National Giving Day
  • June 27 - August 5: Horizon’s Summer Program to include several events on campus
  • August 4: Horizons SHU Family/Community Night – Edgerton Theater of the Performing Arts
  • October 15: Saturday Morning Instrument Petting Zoo with SHU Marching Band on campus
  • November 11: Success Center Reading Palooza with the Isabelle Farrington College of Education on campus