OST Voices Episode #9: Horton’s Kids
By Brad Sickels, Sr. Manager of Events & Communications
When KIPP College Prep student Monae found out last spring that her school would be moving to virtual learning, she felt fear, anxious that her math grade would suffer if she couldn’t get help from her teacher in person.
“The first week of virtual learning, I was worried I was going to be too distracted at home to do my classes right,” she said.
Fortunately, Monae was connected with Horton’s Kids. Through regular check-ins with her dean and targeted communications with KIPP, our team was able to tailor Monae’s distance learning experience to work for her. Horton's Kids has since helped hundreds of students like Monae navigate the challenging transition to virtual learning.
Horton’s Kids empowers children growing up in DC’s Ward 8 so that they graduate from high school ready for success in college, career, and life. We serve more than 500 children in grades K-12 living in Wellington Park and Stanton Oaks, neighborhoods that have been profoundly impacted by decades of disinvestment and barriers to opportunity. With support from committed volunteers, Horton’s Kids provides support with academics, social-emotional development, and health and basic needs. Our impact is dramatic: in fact, children in Horton’s Kids are twice as likely to graduate from high school compared to their peers who are not enrolled in Horton’s Kids. And for the last three years, 100% of seniors enrolled in our programs have graduated.
When DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in July 2020 that all public schools would continue remote learning through the end of the year, this presented an array of new challenges for residents in DC’s Ward 8, where access to technology and Wi-Fi were already severely limited. As caregivers helped their children transition to the virtual classroom, they faced new concerns about attendance, the use of new learning platforms, and learning loss.
“Our priority was to ensure that every family had the proper technology and internet access needed for distance learning,” said Horton’s Kids Senior Director of Academics Gina Burd. “Then our focus shifted directly to increasing school engagement and advocacy and strengthening relationships between school staff, parents, and students.”
To accomplish this, Horton’s Kids academic staff began collecting school schedules and school login information for caregivers and offered hands-on training for the technology and platforms used for distance learning. Progress monitoring using IEPs, report cards, and attendance reports enabled us to directly intervene if a child started to fall behind. Our staff also met with school deans, counselors, support staff, and teachers to ensure students were receiving the academic and social-emotional support required to thrive. Over this time, we established hundreds of school touchpoints to ensure 100% of students enrolled in Horton’s Kids were engaged and that our seniors remained on track to graduate.
Students participated in over 300 virtual out-of-school time (OST) tutoring sessions throughout the 2020 academic year. We provided comprehensive summer programming, including educational and enrichment activities like blog writing, book clubs, and discussion groups. We also made sure students stayed connected to their virtual classrooms by providing $30,000 worth of laptops, tablets, and WiFi hotspots to households in Stanton Oaks and Wellington Park.
Part of the response for Monae, who is now a senior, was connecting her with a tutor to focus specifically on math. Since working with her tutor, Natalie, Monae has been able to get her grade up to a B average for the past two semesters and finish her senior year strong.
“Ms. Natalie helped me with my math class and her communication style made it easy for me to understand,” Monae said. “She knows where I'm at and where I'm coming from.”
Monae feels enthusiastic about what lies ahead as she makes plans to enroll in a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program. Our college and career readiness team is partnering with her to explore different pathways and compare programs. “If I work hard as a CNA, who knows, I could become a nurse someday. I’m excited to find a job where I can help people,” she said.
As in-person learning resumes, school engagement and advocacy will continue to be a cornerstone of Horton’s Kids’ academic and social-emotional supports. Our upcoming summer curriculum will provide intensive intervention for our youngest learners, while also offering engaging academic and enrichment offerings to our entire K-12 community. We want to ensure that students feel ready and confident to enter their school buildings to resume in-person learning this fall. Horton’s Kids and other OST programs have a key role in making this transition as smooth as possible, so that students like Monae can focus less on the stresses of life and school and more on achieving their dreams.
Check out previous episodes of OST Voices: