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First lady, Meriden’s Miguel Cardona visit summer learning program

NEW HAVEN — First Lady Jill Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Horizons National summer learning program on Wednesday to kick off a two-day summer learning tour across Connecticut, Georgia and Michigan.

Last year, Horizons National launched its program at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven with funding from the American Rescue Plan, which included $122 billion to help schools nationwide reopen after closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacqueline Taylor found out about the Horizons program at Albertus Magnus from a friend last year and decided to fill out an application. She said the program made a “big difference” for her second-grade son, who is returning for a second year.

“Now he’s more confident,” she said.

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker said the Horizons program at Albertus Magnus is one of 200 Connecticut summer programs funded through ARPA. They are designed to alleviate the loss in academic skills many students experience during summer break, a problem called “summer slide” by educators.

Cardona, former Connecticut Commissioner of Education and a Meriden native, is acquainted with the problem. He toured the program along with the first lady, Gov. Ned Lamont and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker, stopping to joke with students and ask them questions about what they were learning.

“These students are not having a summer slide,” Cardona said. “We know the pandemic made it worse, so these programs are critical, especially in communities like New Haven.”

The Horizons National curriculum offers students a combination of math, science, reading, writing and swimming — all for free. Because of the lack of access to education caused by the pandemic, students across the country are testing months behind their grade level, especially students living in areas hit hardest by the pandemic.

Horizons reported that students nationally on average are testing behind an average of five months in reading. That goes up to seven months for students in communities with fewer resources. However, Horizons National CEO Lorna Smith sees the program as an opportunity. She said that after attending a Horizons National program, students achieve a 6-10 week gain in reading and math.

“Summer learning loss has always been a problem,” she said. “It has also always been an opportunity.”

This is the first year Danielle Gayle is teaching second grade math at Horizons National. During the school year, Gayle is a seventh grade teacher at middle school in Bridgeport.

“We’re walking through it,” she said. “I tell them [the students] that we have the summer to get it.”

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. To learn more about RFA go to www.reportforamerica.org. Guzmán can be reached at lguzman@record-journal.com. Twitter: @lauguzm_n


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