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Horizons and the Transition to High School

Posted on Mar 25, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Through Horizons, healthy attitudes and habits forged before and during the middle school years can spell the difference between students who succeed in high school and those who stumble or drop out.

The statistics aren’t good for the 20 percent of school-age children living in poverty. In fact, low-income children are five times more likely to drop out of high school than their more economically fortunate peers. Some students even drop out during middle school. And when low-income students drop out, there’s a fifty percent chance they’ll stay stuck in poverty, which means our nation’s economy and wellbeing suffer as well.

For over twenty years, Horizons programs have been working to counter this trend. Horizons students engage in our program at an early age, and we work hard to provide the right supports at each of the pivotal points in our students’ development.

There are few points as pivotal as adolescence, especially as young people move from middle school to high school. It’s also a time when low-income students can benefit from exactly the kind of support they may say they don’t need. How does Horizons help low-income students navigate this transition? How do we keep young adolescents motivated and engaged in learning?

First, we give our students a strong foundation. The Horizons approach is based on creating long-term connections that change and evolve over time as students grow. While strategies and curriculum may differ from age to age, from pre-K to high school, we support the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical well being of the “whole child” across a child’s primary and secondary school years.

By 8th grade, having participated for years in a consistent, high-quality summer learning experience, Horizons students are ready to navigate the transition to high school. Through their time with Horizons, our students turn summer learning loss into learning gain, and actually accelerate their academic growth. Our project-based STEM curriculum engages and challenges students, and our emphasis on healthy diet and exercise helps improve their overall health. Horizons students learn the importance of daily attendance – at Horizons and at school – and have learned strategies to ease fears about entering high school. Prepared to succeed, Horizons students start high school with a positive attitude about learning, about themselves, and about the future.

Rising 9th grade Horizons students take “Transition to High School” courses to help understand the many challenges of high school (such as drugs, peer pressure, and increased responsibilities), as well as the many opportunities (such as goal-setting, curricular choice, and college options) that lie ahead. As high school begins, Horizons students take advantage of mentoring/academic coaching, bridge year and financial literacy classes, and workshops that focus on high school and the pathway to college. Each of these is designed to meet students’ needs and provide opportunities to reach goals and expand experiences. The result? 99% of Horizons high school students graduate, and 91% go on to college or other post-secondary education. Through Horizons, healthy attitudes and habits forged before and during the middle school years can spell the difference between students who succeed in high school and those who stumble or drop out. For students, families, and communities, a better future begins by staying in school.

Research shows that investing in middle school students and expanding their learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom pays big dividends in high school and beyond. Horizons recently joined together with ten other non-profits to send a memo to all presidential candidates, promoting polices to invest in what works for middle school students, through effective public-private partnerships, without adding any burden to schoolteachers or school systems. See more>