Horizons at Greene Street Friends School

Horizons at Greene Street Friends School in Germantown is planning to double the number of students in its six-week summer session scheduled to start in late June. —Submitted photo

Education in Germantown is getting a shot in the arm.

A program designed to enrich and transform the education of children in underserved communities in the Greater Philadelphia area is expanding due to the challenges posed by the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Aided by $115,000 in funding from a recent grant, Horizons at Greene Street Friends School in Germantown is planning to double the number of students in its six-week summer session scheduled to start in late June. Horizons at Greene Street Friends School is part of an association of other Horizons sites in the area, including Horizons at Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, Horizons at Springside Chestnut Academy in Chestnut Hill and Horizons at Cristo Rey in Nicetown Tioga. Nationally there are 64 sites.

Working with John Wister Mastery Charter School, Greene Street aims to increase the number of students in its summer enrichment and transformation sessions to 180.

The aim is to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on learning loss for students in historically underserved communities.

Applications are now being accepted for volunteers and participants in the program designed to broaden underserved students access to a path to success in school and life. This is the kickoff of the sixth year of the summer enrichment program.

The initiative could be a game changer this year for some families whose children have fallen behind due to the impediments of the COVID pandemic.

The pandemic’s full effects on learning can’t yet be measured while schools are still coping, experts say. But most concede that lost time caused by schools shutting down, the limitations of teaching over videoconference, changes in schedules, and even the shortcomings of “in person” teaching with masks and social distancing are growing hurdles for child learning at lower grade levels.

Children begin the program in kindergarten and return every year to the summer enrichment curriculum throughout middle school in partnership with nearby John Wister Public Elementary School.

According to Horizons at Greene Street Friends School executive director, Malia Neal, data collected each year from Horizons National show that students gain two-to-three months of reading and math skills each summer through the Horizons initiatives. Summer is typically a period when the reverse may be true, with younger children set back two to three months in reading and math skills.

With COVID-19 in the mix this year, educators contend the setbacks are likely to be more.

Neal said the youth in the program also learn to swim and explore music, theater, art and other activities that build self-confidence and cultivate creativity and leadership.

Ninety-eight percent of Horizons’ students graduate from high school and 96% enroll in post-secondary education.

She said last summer the program launched its fifth year “with returning cohorts of first-, second-, third- and fourth-graders, as well as a new cohort of kindergartners.”

Neal added, “As each year brings a new group of students and families to our campus, our partnership with Wister Elementary School gets stronger and deeper.

“After a taxing school year, we are looking forward to welcoming our students back to campus at Greene Street Friends School for an amazing summer full of learning and fun,” she said.

Horizons at Greene Street Friends will begin June 28 and end on Aug. 6 this year.

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