It was a day filled with blue graduation caps and bittersweet goodbyes as Horizons hosted its annual Moving Up Ceremony. A Horizons tradition, the ceremony celebrates preschoolers who are leaving Horizons’ Early Education Centers and heading to Kindergarten. The ceremony includes goodbyes from teachers, an audience full of proud parents, and graduates with a diploma in hand ready to take the next step in their education.
Horizons’ three Early Education Centers, located in Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Dorchester, are designed for children, ages 0-5, who are experiencing homelessness. Our program ensures that this vulnerable population receives quality education that will set them on a course for academic success. Research shows that early education is critically important and children who lack access to early education programs are far more likely to experience developmental delays, learning disabilities, health problems, and other challenges. Experiencing homelessness often means that children have been exposed to trauma and Horizons’ teachers are specifically trained to work with children to overcome those challenges with trauma informed practices.
Preschool teacher, Tashani Brito reflected on the growth of her students as she celebrated the next step in their education.
“Seeing the growth children in my class have made in the time they have been in my classroom is amazing. Something we are very big on in preschool is social and emotional development. A lot of children coming from trauma suffer emotionally, and they often have a lot of difficulty in that area.”
To help mitigate the trauma caused by homelessness, Horizons strives to create a welcoming classroom environment where children feel safe to be themselves. In addition, Horizon’s programs are year round to provide children with a consistent routine that leads to a sense of security and normalcy.
“All of the children in the classroom have a place they can rely on day after day and week after week. The classroom is a place to have fun, play with friends, and experience what it is like to just be a child,” added Tashani.
Kaela and Mike, parents of Kaeleen and McKenna, sisters who are among Roxbury’s graduates, say that raising three little girls in inconsistent living situations has been a challenge.
“Horizons has been a help to us and the girls as we’ve worked to make progress on our goals and stabilize our life,” offered Kaela. “We’re excited for what’s ahead and can’t wait to see them continue to grow as they move on to kindergarten.”
At the Moving Up Ceremony teachers shared where each child would be continuing their education. This is facilitated through Horizons’ Next School initiative as part of the Family Partnership program. Horizons works to help families gather information about their child’s placement and then, once the choice is made, helps transition children into kindergarten wherever that may be – in a Boston Public School, local Catholic School or Charter School. This enables a smooth passage from preschool to kindergarten, ensuring children maintain the strides they have made.
Thanks to the generosity of Horizons donors, each graduate was also gifted a new backpack full of supplies ready to help them succeed at their new school!