Horizons at Sacred Heart University, an enrichment program for Bridgeport’s underserved K-12 schoolchildren, has received a $10,000 grant from Near & Far Aid, which provides funds for agencies and programs serving impoverished communities in Fairfield County. The grant will help support 15-20 new students entering Horizons at SHU for 2018-19. The grant also will support the reading and STEM curricula for the program’s 120 existing students.
Horizons serves children from low-income families in Bridgeport — primarily minorities — who are at risk for experiencing an academic achievement gap. A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore found that children living in poverty who read below grade level by third grade are three times more likely to drop out of high school than students who have never experienced poverty. Moreover, education experts such as Margaret Spellings (a former U.S. Secretary of Education and proponent of No Child Left Behind) have estimated that high school dropouts cost the nation as much as $260 billion per year in increased crime, welfare and health care costs and decreased lifetime earnings.
Horizons seeks to avoid achievement gaps and their consequences for Bridgeport, and society at large, through a national model of early intervention that has proven track record of success. It offers a six-week, full-day summer program, as well as a Saturday Academy for 10 half days throughout the school year. It seeks to provide K-12 students a strong life foundation through a rigorous focus on academics, a high-quality enrichment program and the tools to become good citizens. By offering the program year-round, Horizons helps prevent summer learning loss and maintains continuity during the school year.
According to assessments of schoolchildren in the Horizons at SHU program, these students will gain an average of four to six months or more in grade-level reading during a summer in the program. The studies also show Horizons students who are performing below grade level will improve by two grade levels annually until they reach appropriate status. In the long term, students who enter the program as rising first graders will all read at grade level by the third grade. This outcome is consistent with the goal for Bridgeport STRIVE, a career resource program, and is seen as an important benchmark for student success in later grades.
Further motivating the children to excel in their studies and to strive for eventual higher education, Horizon’s relationship with Sacred Heart University and its 200-acre main campus gives the students an inside glimpse at university life.
“Horizons at SHU is deeply grateful to Near & Far Aid. Their generous grant will support our goal to improve the grade level of all our students and prepare them to go to college,” said Jeffrey Rumpf, the program’s executive director. “We are leading the way, developing best practices in reading and STEM instruction, as well as building our students’ social and emotional strengths. Near & Far Aid is helping us carry out our mission of enabling participating children to develop the skills and confidence to grow and become successful, contributing members of society in Bridgeport and beyond.”