Horizons at Norwalk Community College (HNCC) first opened in 2013. We are now preparing for our fifth Summer Program in 2017! HNCC is an affiliate of a national network of student enrichment programs designed to encourage students from a diverse low income population to explore new worlds and to realize their full potential, in partnership with host independent schools, colleges, and universities.
The first Horizons program was founded in 1964 on the New Canaan Country School campus. There are now 51 Horizons programs in 17 states, serving more than 4,500 students from Pre-K through 12th grade. HNCC is one of eight Horizons programs in Connecticut – at New Canaan Country School, Brunswick School, Ethel Walker School, Foote School, Greens Farms Academy, Sacred Heart University and Western Connecticut State University.
Connecticut has one of the widest educational achievement gaps in the nation. This measures the unequal or inequitable distribution of educational results and benefits of Connecticut students. Horizons’ enrichment programs help to close that gap, as well as stem the “summer slide” of learning loss that occurs during vacation.
Horizons at Norwalk Community College is anchored by a six-week summer program, guided by a professional faculty in a nurturing environment. The program is committed to the development of the whole child through experiences that enhance self-esteem, build problem-solving skills, and encourage a lifelong interest in learning. Horizons emphasizes academics, the arts, social growth, and athletics. Like all Horizons affiliates, we provide the fun and confidence-building of swimming and water safety instruction.
HNCC began with one classroom of kindergarten children in 2013, and the following year we added both a 1st grade and a Pre-K class – one of only three Horizons nationwide to provide Pre-K programming. In 2017 we will have 70 children in grades Pre-K through 4th grade on campus. We will “grow a grade” each year through 8th grade.
HNCC is largely funded through tax deductible donations from the surrounding community, including individuals, and local corporations and foundations. The generosity of space and utilities from our host school NCC, allows a high percentage of fund raising dollars to go directly toward program expenses. Our largest expenditures are for teacher salaries, bus transportation, and pool and lifeguard fees.
Recognized as one of the leading community colleges in the nation, Norwalk Community College is a vital community partner in our work. NCC provides professional expertise and access to campus resources, along with welcoming our Horizons program each summer in their state-of-the-art Child Development Laboratory School (CDLS), which includes safe and age-appropriate outdoor play spaces. Our Horizons students and their families benefit from and are inspired by immediate access to the many educational and community resources NCC provides, in fulfilling their mission to provide “cradle to career” education.
Horizons students all qualify for free and reduced lunch, and reflect the diversity of our local community. When they first come to Horizons, most students are performing below grade level. We are committed to working with our local affiliates to meet our communities needs with this award-winning educational experience for children.
HNCC also works in consultation with the Norwalk public schools to identify and encourage potential applicants. Our application process opens in December and closes March 1st. Information and application forms are available above. We welcome all families, regardless of family structure; socio economic, racial, religious and cultural background; gender; abilities; or preferred language, to apply to HNCC. Our program is family-focused and siblings are given priority placement whenever possible.
The six-week program is provided to families free of cost except for a small registration fee. The program includes round trip bus transportation and daily meals and snacks. Horizons families must meet attendance expectations and make a long-term commitment to participate in the program and its activities. Our daily attendance rate is 97%, and 91% of our deserving children return each year, as do more than 90% of our dedicated teachers.
Parents and caregivers participate in workshops throughout the year on topics including career planning and resume writing, financial literacy, ESL practice, homework supervision, and family nutrition. One popular parent activity is “Share Your Talent” day. We have had parents demonstrate musical talents, bike repairs, make cookies, read books and even cut students’ hair!
Catherine Neiswonger is Director of the Child Development Lab School at NCC and serves as Executive Director of Horizons at Norwalk Community College. Each summer she is joined by senior staff who advise on program, including curriculum development and reading comprehension, and a teaching staff are assisted by student interns from NCC receiving course credit for their HNCC classroom work. This summer more than 95% of our paid staff will be returning, and this continuity is invaluable in building relationships and meeting our students evolving needs each academic year.
Horizons at Norwalk Community College is overseen by a board of community volunteers from Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, and Westport:
- Lynn Jackson Quinn, Chair
- Karen McKeel Calby, Vice Chair
- Elisabeth Evans, Secretary
- Joanna Williams, Treasurer
- John Grace
- Gary Holloway
- David L. Levinson, Ph.D.
- Gary Holloway
- Laurie Maglathlin
- Ann S. Mandel
- Roy Pfeil
- Lisa Schultz
- Anne-Lie Sparks
- Ann R. Cohen, Director Emerita
- Catherine Neiswonger, ex officio