From June 2nd to July 18th, the Horizons summer learning program brought forty-five kindergarten, first, and second grade students to the University of Mississippi campus. A key initiative of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, Horizons at the University of Mississippi aims to eliminate summer learning loss for underserved students, positively impact student perceptions of school and learning, and increase student self-confidence. The six-week, full-day program included reading and literacy instruction, journal writing, and STEM activities. The program also offered exciting enrichment and recreational activities such as art at the UM Museum, mindfulness, yoga, gardening, martial arts, basketball, track, soccer, and swimming. Learning to swim was a highlight of the program, greatly contributing to student self-confidence.
“UM’s Horizons program is transforming lives for both children in the community and University students. For six weeks, school children are afforded an opportunity to learn and play on campus, increasing their cultural capital through enrichment activities. University students are also making a difference in the lives of these school children through their volunteer efforts in the program,” said Dr. Albert Nylander, Director of the McLean Institute.
Partnering with the Oxford School District, Horizons had a certified teacher and an assistant teacher in each classroom, as well as a certified Reading Specialist available for all students. UM’s College Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates also volunteered in the program, increasing support for students. The low student-to-teaching staff ratio allowed students to receive one-on-one support, providing the opportunity for a greater focus on social and character development.
According to Horizons Director Emma Tkachuck, this summer’s success is due to the highly experienced and enthusiastic teaching staff and volunteers who created a positive, supportive, and exciting learning environment. “It was incredible; they built an environment where students were excited to come learn each day,” says Tkachuck. Students are invited to return each summer and Horizons is making plans for student and family activities throughout the school year to maintain the sense of community and excitement developed over the summer.
Partners for this summer’s Horizons program include: the United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County, the Oxford School District, the UM Departments of Outreach and Student Housing, Aramark, the Turner Center, the Fed Ex Academic Success Center, the Lafayette County Literacy Council, Yokna Bottoms Farm, and the UM Field Station. Horizons will expand each year until it serves kindergarten through grade eight. “We look forward to building on the success of the past two summers and, with the help of our partners, offer students new experiences and opportunities in the years to come,” said Tkachuck. In the meantime, Horizons is celebrating the successes of this summer and wishing their students a successful start to the school year.