Greg Davis said he knew members of the Rotary Club of Buckhead were familiar with Horizons Atlanta, a summer enrichment program on Atlanta International School’s campus in Buckhead, but he wanted them to see it up close and personal.
“We’ve had really good support from the club, but only less than 30% of the club has ever volunteered for this program,” said Davis, the club’s 2019-20 president whose tenure started July 1. “If they won’t come to us, we’re going to come to them. I felt like it was an opportunity to showcase the impact our club is having on these students and how the return on our volunteer efforts will pay dividends for many, many years.
“It ties into our theme of Buckhead Rotary connecting with Buckhead, Atlanta and the world. We’re fortunate to have (Atlanta International Headmaster) Kevin Glass as one of our members, and it allows us the opportunity to showcase what’s going on right here in Buckhead. One of my goals is to showcase the efforts our Buckhead community is giving back to the world, and this is just one way to do that.”
So the club hosted its July 1 weekly lunch meeting, usually held at Maggiano’s Little Italy, at Horizons Atlanta’s campus at Atlanta International, where at each table three or four students sat with three or four Rotary members.
Horizons Atlanta is a six-week, tuition-free, summer enrichment program which, according to a news release on the organization, supports underprivileged children from kindergarten through eighth grade discover the joy of learning skills for success and inspiration to achieve their dreams.
It has nine metro Atlanta locations, and its first one, at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The eight other Horizons Atlanta locations – Atlanta International, Atlanta Technical College, Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State University (Paulding campus), Purpose Built Schools Atlanta and Woodward Academy – were founded between 2012 and 2017. The one at Atlanta International opened in 2016 and has about 90 children participating this summer.
Chris Rhue, who with Kelsey Bunker serves as co-site director for the Atlanta International program, said Horizons Atlanta and the club have formed a strong partnership.
“I think the Rotary Club is doing a great job as far as leaning into the community but consistently leaning into the community,” Rhue said. “Year after year they have shown a commitment to the organization not only with a donation but also with their time. But their time is what we value more from them, working with the children summer (after) summer and throughout the school year as well.
“I go to at least two or three Rotary meetings a year, and every time I go, there’s always (an opportunity) for Horizons and how they can advance the program. That’s how Rotary is helping Horizons but also helping the children in the Buckhead community.”
At the meeting, two students and one teacher gave testimonials on the impact Horizons Atlanta had on them.
“Before summer with Horizons, I did not now know to swim in the deep end of the pool,” said Ashley, a student whose last name was not released to protect her privacy. “Now I know how to swim in the deep end. Swimming is now fun. Science is also fun. I also had an opportunity to write more with Horizons. I am better at writing now that I’ve been at Horizons. Math was so boring but my teachers have helped me make connections in math. Now I can see how math works for me.”
Another student, Evan, said, “I like Horizons; it makes me smart. We do a lot of math. We do a lot of science.”
Garden Hills Elementary School teacher Debbie Settles said she’s been involved with the Horizons Atlanta program since its inception.
“I came because my principal said, ‘We need some teachers to go across the street (to Atlanta International) and help these kids avoid the summer slide,’” she said. “We looked around the room and most everyone said, ‘No, I’m not giving up six weeks of my summer.’ So I took the challenge. From that point on, I fell in love. I am one of five teachers at Garden Hills who teach children who know a second language. I get to see the fruits of the Rotarians volunteering, of the teachers coming to the school, to see the test scores rising and students becoming better swimmers and gaining confidence. Thank you to the Rotarians for your kindness and your time and your dedication.”
For more information on Horizons Atlanta, visit www.horizonsatlanta.org.