Summer is here, grades are in and school is almost over. But the learning opportunities don’t end during these off weeks.
The Horizons program is a free national program of summer enrichment camps, and currently has five program sites in Philadelphia. It provides tuition free, six week summer camps for kindergarten all the way to eighth graders, with half days focused specifically on academic enrichment including literacy, math,and STEM activities. and the rest of the days filled with swimming, field trips, culturally relevant assemblies, and other activities.
Horizons at Greene Street Friends was the first Philadelphia site, and the second largest site in the city. Founded in 2016, Executive Director Monica Quarrie said one of the unique aspects of their program is how most of the students are right in the area.
“I think what makes our site unique is that we at Greene Street are operating in the same neighborhood that our students live in, ” said Quarrie. “So our families will walk here in the mornings. They will walk to pick their students up when we have community events, it is within the community that our students are already living in.”
Quarrie says most of the Horizons programs partner with neighborhooding schools to provide some continuity between the school year and the summer. Some of the Horizons sites also have students that travel from across the city to attend. Horizons at Greene Street partners with Mastery at Wister Elementary and Mastery Pickett, and most of their students live right in the neighborhood.
Diana Baye, a Germantown local, has all four of her children in the Horizons at Greene Street program. She started her daughter in first grade, and she is now in fifth. All her younger siblings joined since then.
Baye was drawn to overall holistic enrichment the kids were getting- they were enjoying themselves but were also learning how to swim, do karate, and get daily academic enrichment. She also liked that they focused on healthy living and eating, and even provided a new perspective to the neighborhood around them.
“I love that they go on trips, including a lot of walking trips. And the reason I like that is because it allowed them to explore their own neighborhood in a different way a lot of times, “said Baye.
“I’ve lived in Philadelphia all my life, but there are a lot of things in Philadelphia, specifically in Germantown, that I never realized were there. I’ve never visited. There’s a lot of rich history around us that the rest of us take for granted,” Baye continued. “ I’ve been here, like I said, my entire life, and there’s so many things that I didn’t even realize were here, and they’ve been exposed to those things right here in their own neighborhood. And I like that. I like that they show them what’s right in front of our faces.”
Quarrie says that field trips every week, different enrichment programs, and a focus on making sure learning loss doesn’t happen in summer helps close an equity gap with families who might not be able to provide all the supplemental resources outside of school, and instills a love of learning that will carry them through their high school years when they graduate from the Horizons program.
“We try to focus on students that live in the community, that their families are very dedicated to their children’s academics while still wanting them to have those enrichment activities in the summer and families that would really receive a lot by participating in this program and may not otherwise be able to participate in a program such as ours,” said Quarrie.
Quarrie said they also stay in touch with families throughout the school year, coordinating gatherings, film screenings, and other activities. They have brought in local artists and musicians to talk to the students, and have collaborated with local businesses and other local organizations to really provide the fullest experiences for the kids.
Quarrie became executive director in May of 2022 and is grateful for the Germantown neighborhood for being so welcoming . She’s embraced all the different partnerships she’s been able to coordinate with local businesses, organizations, and community leaders.
“It’s really been a beautiful thing to see and just gives me a lot of hope for our program, for Germantown as a community, especially as we are all coming out of the last few years, seeing people come together and work together positively and in collaboration, it’s, I hope, what will be more permeable throughout the city.”