A new initiative in Peoria’s District 150 is being expanded to impact more students.
Educational foundations across the nation are focusing on early education, technology, and college and career readiness, according to National School Foundation Association Director Nina Menis. At the center of the Peoria Public Schools Foundation’s efforts is the Horizons Club, a program that helps young people see the potential in their future by showing them where their hard work might lead.
As president of the foundation, I love to ask people, “What kind of Peoria do you hope to see in the future?” Nearly every answer involves having our youth grow up in a place where they are free and willing to participate in the productivity of our “All-America City.” Our job as private citizens is to help each one earn a place at the table of productive employment, informed citizenship and responsible volunteering, giving to and parenting each new generation.
At this time of year, the nine-member volunteer board of the Peoria Public Schools Foundation looks out on the horizon to see what we can do right now to invest your generous gifts in programs that will help multiply and maximize the millions of taxpayer dollars invested in our youth. Last fall, Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan advised that a focus on middle schools with career and college readiness would achieve impact. To that end, our foundation created and funded the Horizons Club, which was implemented in a pilot program in January.
We started small with a focus on direct student engagement at three middle schools—Calvin Coolidge, Rolling Acres and Von Steuben—one “feeder school” for each high school in the district. Twenty-five students from each school met one day a week over lunch with career-path professionals who interacted, engaged and mentored them on careers, education and training. Each visiting professional told his or her personal story and offered advice; the fields represented included healthcare, law, cosmetology, retail, media, journalism, architecture, construction trades, education, law enforcement, military and nonprofit work. The Woodruff Career & Technical Center also participated, discussing its offerings.
We now hope to expand the Horizons Club program to engage every middle school in Peoria District 150, and will start by adding two more schools this fall: Thomas Jefferson and Glen Oak. The foundation has hired Trish O’Shaughnessy to lead the program. She has been instrumental in its success and growth, having forged a one-on-one relationship with each Horizons Club student. This school year, the Horizons Club will impact 400 students, and the future progress of each will be monitored through annual career fairs and communications after they graduate high school.
One person can make a difference. Whether you are a donor to the Right Now Fund of the Peoria Public Schools Foundation that provides support for the club or a volunteer in the program, we thank you for your support. The Horizons Club offers a special opportunity to light a fire in the eyes of students in our public schools… with a greater understanding of the possibilities for their future. iBi
Cindy Morris is president of the Peoria Public Schools Foundation. For more information, visit ppsfoundation.org or call (309) 672-6738.