Helping Atlanta’s Underserved Children See a Future in STEM
For low-income students, summer is a critical time. Many education experts say that is the time of year when underserved K-12 students fall behind their classmates. While other middle and upper class students are taking family vacations and heading off to summer camp, many low-income students are left at home unengaged. The lack of activity leads to a “summer slide,” a term used to describe what happens when these students return from their vacation and are behind their other classmates in reading, math and science. Many of these students will never catch up.
Horizons@GT aims to boost young minds even higher, and give them exciting opportunities over the summer break to keep those brain gears churning. The program focus is on students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Many of these young students were below grade level across subjects when they started school. The Horizons program helps these students not only get back to their grade level, but also return to school ahead of many of their classmates. Students in the program return each summer until they complete the eighth grade year.
Georgia Tech’s program introduces these students to the world of science, technology, engineering, and math. Students are exposed to everything from architecture in the form of building gumdrop and wooden skewer towers, to writing computer code. Over the six weeks at Tech, students are also taught how to swim. The program’s educators say the confidence needed to learn to swim carries over to confidence in the classroom. The core goal of Georgia Tech’s Horizons program is to develop STEM skills to the point that students completing the program are on track to attend a leading university such as Georgia Tech.
The Institute is becoming increasingly involved with the Horizons program as it enters its third year on campus. Whether it’s President Bud Peterson stopping by as a surprise to read a story, or athletes from the Georgia Tech football team taking the time to interact with and inspire the students, the children taking part in Horizons get an experience in real college classrooms and facilities that many other students, regardless of socioeconomic status, may never receive.
This year, the record-setting 115 students taking part in the summer program will get the opportunity to take part in their own version of Georgia Tech’s InVenture Prize competition. They will tap into their inner inventor and use the resources at Georgia Tech to come up with a design or device of their own.
"It is experiences like these that have a real impact on budding students and allow them to see the potential they have within," says Chris Thompson, Associate Director of Technology & Student Activities for CEISMC, Georgia Tech's partnership organization with schools and corporations across the state of Georgia.
Teachers report that Horizons students return each fall motivated and eager to learn and more likely to become leaders in the classroom.