Horizons started in 1964 when an independent school in New Canaan, Connecticut initiated a summer program designed to serve children in neighboring low-income urban areas. Over the next decades, The New Canaan Country School helped many Horizons students achieve their full potential and was awarded a grant in 1994 to replicate its promising pilot program. The School sent information packets to independent schools across the country. Many schools responded. Only the Harley School and one other took action that year.
With encouragement from the Harley Board of Directors, led by Mary Jo Gabel, then Head of School Richard Blumenthal sought additional information about the New Canaan program. He asked his Middle School Director of Community Service, Cynthia Marshall, to conduct a feasibility study to determine if Horizons New Canaan might be a viable model. Cynthia contacted Bill Burleigh, who had decades of valuable public school leadership experience to his credit – and two years as Head of Harley, as well. Bill and Cynthia investigated the New Cannan program and decided, with full Board approval, that Harley should “go for it.” They went to work to make things happen and presented to the Youth Board of the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation to obtain seed money. Within four months, they were ready to begin operations with first and second grade classes in the summer of 1995. Meanwhile, Richard had contacted Joe and Nancy Briggs, who had a long standing interest in education for urban students. They responded with early funding, followed by many years of major gifts, which along with continued generosity from the Wilson Foundation, Cynthia and David Marshall, and many others, put the program on a strong financial footing.
Bill Burleigh gets credit not only for having planted the Horizons program at the Harley School but also for having tended the program as its first Executive Director. His successors, Diane Jones, Gill Dechario, Ron Matthews, Ann Pennella, and since 2010 our current Executive Director, Luis A. Perez, have offered their own unique leadership skills and enthusiasm to run and grow the program. With equal devotion, Harley School Heads Richard Blumenthal, Richard Barter, Paul Schiffman, Tim Cottrell and current Head Ward Ghory have supported Horizons in countless ways and have ensured that the Horizons at Harley program be a national model of high-quality summer enrichment. Harley has provided its magnificent facilities free of charge since the very beginning, and both its students and teachers continue to partner with the Horizons kids in substantive ways during the summer session and throughout the year.
In 2010 Horizons at Harley incubated the Horizons at Warner School program currently housed at the U of R. In 2011 Horizons at Harley incubated the Horizons at MCC program and served as consultants to the Horizons at Nazareth College program, bringing to four the total of Horizons programs now offered in our community. Having added a kindergarten class in 2009, in 2013 as a partner in the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, Horizons at Harley added a Pre-K class. The program now annually serves 150 students in grades Pre-K through 8th. Also in 2013, Horizons at Harley came full circle when Digno Caminero became the first program graduate to join the Horizons at Harley Advisory Board. Under the leadership of current Co-Chair Conger Gabel and the creation of the Greater Rochester Summer Learning Association, Horizons at Harley is leading the way to the expansion of the model to serve more children in our region.
This year Horizons at Harley is celebrating its 20th anniversary and we are so grateful for Horizons National, our funders, community partners, and a host of individuals who serve and give in so many ways to make it all possible. Thank You!
We look forward to another 20 years of inspiring minds, creating community, and transforming lives.