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IvyWise Gives Back: Counselor Juaquin’s Work With Horizons Albuquerque

Positively impacting communities, both local and global, is important to IvyWise. Through IvyWise Gives Back we aim to improve educational opportunities for children across the world. Our counselors are also heavily involved in various non-profit, service, and community organizations and projects, and we want to highlight the great work our counselors do outside of admissions consulting!

IvyWise counselor Juaquin is passionate about increasing access to college and creating opportunities for those in the most need. That’s why he founded Horizons Albuquerque at the Bosque School, a non-profit organization that partners with public schools and private schools to increase access to education and confidence building activities.

Horizons Albuquerque is part of a national organization that uses a data-driven learning model with an intense focus on reading, math, science, and activities that underprivileged kids wouldn’t otherwise have access to. The goal is to decrease summer learning loss and provide students and families with strategies for educational success. Once a student is enrolled in Horizons that student continues with the Horizons Albuquerque program each summer until they graduate from high school. To learn more about Horizons Albuquerque, its mission, and how to donate, read our Q & A with Juaquin.

Q: What led you into non-profit work and the founding of Horizons Albuquerque?
A: I’m from Albuquerque, my family has been in New Mexico since 1694, and I was the first in my family to attend college. My experience at Wesleyan helped me find my voice and a passion for education, and I wanted to utilize my college counseling skills to support students from low-income backgrounds. New Mexico has one of the lowest high school graduation rates and college attendance rating in the country, and I wanted to change that. I started the Horizons Albuquerque program in 2013, serving students in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. This year we have students in 1st through 5th grade in an entirely tuition free six-week summer school session, as well as year-round programming for students and their families enrolled in Albuquerque public schools. The goal is for students not to experience “summer slide”, and to help those who are below grade enter the new school at or above grade level in reading and math, ready to learn, thrive and grow.

Q: What is “summer slide”?
A: “Summer slide” is a term used to describe the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose the achievement gains they made during the school year. Studies show that low-income students are disproportionately affected by “summer slide” because during the summer months they fall behind their peers in early grades and spend the rest of their elementary, middle and high school years playing catch up. A 2007 study by professors in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University and published in the American Sociological Review found that the academic achievement gap between low-income and middle-class children in the US is an average of 6 months in kindergarten and nearly 3 years by 5th grade. By high school, children from low-income families will be 6 times more likely to drop out.

Q: How do you evaluate the success of your program?
A: Horizons isn’t just a program that feels good. It is data-driven and we have evidence that shows we are accomplishing our goals. Pre and post testing shows that in the two years since the program began, students who started the program at below grade level have gained an average of 3 months of learning in reading and 4.7 months in math over the summer. Students at grade level are starting the new school year 2 months ahead in reading and 2.7 months ahead in math thus reversing the typical “summer slide.”

Horizons Albuquerque assesses student confidence and engagement in the program through a self-reporting tool that is grade appropriate for each student. A recent student survey conducted by Horizons National indicated that 87% of current Horizons Albuquerque students said that they were planning on going to college. Students also reported getting better grades at school now [85%], wanting to work harder at school [90%], and feeling excited about learning [94%]. Ninety-six percent of the students say they want to stay in Horizons Albuquerque. All students and their guardians are encouraged to be active participants in their student’s learning. We’ve accomplished all of this with an annual cost to deliver both summer and school year programming for $2,500 per family.

Horizons 2Q: What makes your program unique from other Horizons affiliates?
A: The beauty of being a part of a national organization like Horizons is that they allow each affiliate to provide programming that is reflective and supports our local community. Because of the strong influence of Hispanic music and culture in our city, Horizons Albuquerque has a music program that provides youth sized guitars to all students and incorporates music lessons into the program with an emphasis on celebrating the Hispanic heritage through song. The program respects the students’ Hispanic heritage and offers a bilingual approach to education. Lastly, yoga and tennis are integral parts of the summer program to further boost student confidence and introduce low cost healthy and life-long activities.

During the summer session students are also provided breakfast, lunch, and two snacks each day. New Mexico is one of the most food insecure states and has one of the highest rates of childhood hunger. Without proper nutrition our students cannot learn. We also provide food boxes on Fridays so families have access to food over the weekend.

Q: What is your long-term vision for Horizons Albuquerque?
A: Given the current state of education in New Mexico, the case for Horizons Albuquerque is very strong. Indeed, the need to expand is great and there are many partners interested in working with Horizons. Manzano Day School, a private elementary school, has agreed to host a site for Horizons and there has been interest in Santa Fe as well. In particular, Horizons Albuquerque has a strong interest in potentially partnering with Pueblos in New Mexico to create a unique Native American Horizons program on those sites. Further, many educators and social service providers are interested in working with Horizons students and families and there is interest from local companies to create summer employment opportunities for high school youth in the Horizons program.

In addition to working throughout New Mexico, there are several schools in Colorado and Texas that have expressed an interest in starting a Horizons program. In a few short years, it is possible there will be a strong Horizons Southwest cluster, perhaps organizing a Southwest Initiative for both funding purposes and enhancing program elements that are unique to the culture and demographics of the southwest.

Want to learn more about Horizons Albuquerque and get involved? Visit their website and donate here!

Watch the Horizons Albuquerque Video: