Horizons Teachers Honored With Award of Excellence

News Story: February 7, 2014

Horizons National, an education program for underprivileged youth, has announced that the winners of its annual Lyn McNaught Excellence Award are two teachers from its chapter at Sacred Heart University.

The honorees are Stamford’s Jessica McNell and Torrington’s Brad McGuire, a kindergarten teacher and athletic director, respectively, at Foote School in New Haven. McNell and McGuire have been the lead teachers for SHU’s Horizons Enrichment Program since it was founded in 2012. Previously they worked with the Horizons program at Greens Farms Academy in Westport.

“We couldn’t be more proud of them,” says Mary Lou DeRosa, the university’s vice provost for Special Academic Programs. “Jessica and Brad came to us with so much experience and such a passion for this work of helping children, and they have been perfect role models for the young teachers coming out of our Farrington College of Education. The families love them, the board loves them, and we love them.”

SHU’s Horizons program welcomes low-income students from Bridgeport Public and Cathedral Education Cluster schools to its campus for six weeks in the summer. The students, many of whom are the first in their families to step onto a college campus, are exposed to high-quality academics with arts, sports, cultural enrichment and confidence-building activities.

“What I love about Horizons at Sacred Heart is that it’s a full-family program,” says McGuire. “We try to have a lot of contact with the parents. Because of that, the parents greatly support the program, the teachers and the mission. That makes it a very positive and successful environment, because we’re all working together for everyone to be successful.”

McGuire says another pillar of the program’s success is that SHU provides a high ratio of instructors to students. Each classroom is led by four teachers, including interns and participants in the Today’s Students Tomorrow’s Teachers program.

McNell claims that she and McGuire were surprised by the award, because they didn’t even know it existed. “Besides, we don’t do this job for a prize,” she says. “Every single day is a prize for us. It’s an amazing day when you come in with a smile and you leave with a smile, and that’s what working with these students gives us.”

She attributes much of the program’s success to the University community, pointing out the support that Horizons has received from everyone on campus. “Everybody from President Petillo to the people who clean our rooms at the end of the day—everyone welcomes these kids,” she says. “When you’re working in higher education, you’re not expecting to see kindergarteners running around your halls. But everybody makes the kids feel at home. It’s such an incredible environment.”

Headquartered in Westport, Horizons is a national educational summer enrichment program serving low-income public-school students with a broad range of academic abilities. At the heart of every Horizons community is a partnership with independent schools and/or colleges, local schools and the Horizons program. Given an opportunity to attend for nine consecutive summers, Horizons students grow in skills and confidence, returning to their own schools each fall better prepared.

The award is named for Lyn McNaught, Horizons National’s founder and first executive director. She is the former executive director of Horizons at New Canaan Country School, a position she held for 27 years.