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Helping Our “Littlest” Academics in Rochester

There are problems with education that start way before students get to college.

Low-income children fall back in reading and math every summer. National studies show that this kind of learning loss can profoundly affect the academic progress of our youngest learners. The Monroe Community College (MCC) Horizons Program in Rochester, NY is designed to help some of our littlest academics avoid that achievement gap.

With a helping hand from the Harley School’s established Horizons Program, MCC’s Horizons Program welcomed kindergarten students from the Rochester City School District to a dynamic six-week academic enrichment program designed to combat a summer decline in academic engagement and performance. The program provides a unique combination of academic, social, cultural, wellness and recreational experiences that challenge them, develop their talents, keep them engaged and expand their horizons. Participants tend to gain three months in reading skill levels each summer and are far more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. This first cohort will return summer after summer as another cluster of kindergarteners enters the program. Ultimately, the program will expand to Grade 8, serving a total of 110 to 135 students.

According to Luis Perez, executive director of the Horizons Program at Harley, engaging kids at an early age is key. “I like to say that kids speak with their feet,” he said. “They have fun—they want to be here. The Horizons program opens up a whole new world to them.”
Following the national model, last summer’s inaugural program focused on reading, writing and mathematics while emphasizing character development through a variety of activities designed to enhance the student’s social and interpersonal skills. The pint-sized participants were kept busy and engaged, they also gained confidence by mastering a significant life skill—they all learned how to swim.

“The Horizons Program is a wonderful example of the community impact we can have when we work together,” said Hassan Jones, principal of the Harley Middle School. “We begin to close that achievement gap with every child who learns to love learning.”

MCC is the only community college in the country affiliated with the award-winning Horizons National Program.

Jones and Perez are both passionate about the significant difference that a quality educational experience can make on the life of a child. Both are also MCC alumni.

      Written by Monroe Community College

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    • Congratulations to MCC for "living their mission" and being the first community college in the nation to have a Horizons program in place. I'm proud to be on the board of the Horizons affiliate at The Harley School. This is an inspiring program — it honors the students and recognizes their potential for learning. And it is successful — a good news solution that deserves our attention and support.

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