Summer positions and a one year-long AmeriCorps VISTA position is available at Horizons at Carolina Day School where UNC Asheville students can apply, according to Monica Antonazzo, the executive director of the program.
Antonazzo said internships and volunteer positions are also available for UNCA students and the commitment to work with Horizons is for half of the summer session or the whole summer session, which is from June 15 to July 23. Interns and volunteers can work directly with students in the classroom, through music and the arts or with marketing and videography.
“Personally, I really enjoy getting to know the families, getting to see the kids grow up because they are with us over time. Just to see them develop and their passions and their talents show up, that’s really sweet,” she said.
According to the executive director, Horizons at Carolina Day School started in 2018, and while Horizons is on the Carolina Day School campus, they fundraise entirely separate from the school. Children in the Horizons program begin the summer after their kindergarten year and go through the program every summer until at least ninth grade.
Horizons is a national program partnered with over 850 school institutions in 19 states, focusing on academic and emotional achievement opportunities for children, regardless of their family’s income, according to Horizons National.
“For the broader Asheville community, we know that Asheville has one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the country, which is really quite astonishing,” Antonazzo said. “What we see here is really significant, concentrated poverty and generational poverty, which comes from centuries of racist policies and actions and have separated people in this town.”
The executive director said Horizons brings the Asheville community together around significant issues such as the achievement gap and provides an opportunity for children to thrive and contribute their talents and brilliance for a better future.
“Everyone who gets involved with Horizons at one point or another feels great about it and enjoys it because we can see there are so many different organizations and people who care about this issue of greater opportunity and equity. We are working on it in such a concentrated way and we see that it works,” she said.
According to Antonazzo, children in the six week program make eight to 12 weeks of gains in reading and math, meaning children at Horizons do not lose academic learning over the summer and gain learning beyond the summer period.
Bess Bryan, the year-round program coordinator for Horizons at Carolina Day School, said students in the Horizons program participate in academic enrichment, artistic enrichment activities and community field trips while growing in a safe space to explore and validate their emotions. Additionally, students in the Horizons program learn proficient swimming and water safety skills, according to Bryan.
“Along with the skill of swimming, there is such a connection formed between the faculty, staff and the kids because it is such a vulnerable activity for so many people. That connection and that bridge-building to safety, security and emotional regulation is really profound,” she said.
Katie Rudins, a junior at Carolina Day School and a volunteer with Horizons, said her experience volunteering at Horizons has not been negatively altered because of COVID-19 and she has been a virtual reading buddy and tutor.
Rudins said she initiated two programs at Horizons, a healthy garden and a holiday gift drive during her time volunteering with the program which have made a big impact on her. She said she has heard first-hand of families and children in the Horizons program who suffer from food insecurity or have financial difficulty during the holidays.
“I believe eating nutritious fruits and vegetables are important for healthy growth and development in youth,”
Rudins said. “I hoped to decrease their food insecurity and provide organic, healthy and fresh produce along with teaching them the necessary garden skills so one day they can maybe plant their own small garden at home.”
The Carolina Day School junior said the Horizons holiday gift drive combines the efforts of local supporters and Carolina Day School upper school advisory groups to donate and wrap gifts for Horizons families.
“This year with 2020 being so difficult for everybody, I knew it was more important than ever to give these families hope, smiles and support. Every child’s wish list was fulfilled, the Horizons families felt so loved and were greatly appreciative, the donors exceeded all expectations and they made the winter season extra special,” Rudins said.
In addition to volunteering at Horizons for the summer season, UNCA students are invited to apply for summer positions for the program and an AmeriCorps VISTA position according to the executive director.
“We have an AmeriCorps VISTA position that involves working with the Horizons Program. That starts in June, so we’d love to have some UNCA folks apply and have someone from the school if that fits,” Antonazzo said.
UNCA students can apply for the summer positions through the Horizons at Carolina Day School website and the AmeriCorps Vista position can be applied for through the AmeriCorps website.
Additionally, there are more AmeriCorps opportunities through Project POWER in Asheville, which provides year-long service opportunities, according to Ashely Campbell, Project POWER AmeriCorps manager and UNCA alum.
“I feel like not a lot of people know about AmeriCorps and I feel like when people hear about AmeriCorps they want to be a part of it,” Campbell said.
According to the manager, AmeriCorps is a national service program and Project POWER AmeriCorps serves the Asheville community and is funded by the federal government, but goes through Children First, Communities in Schools, the non-profit which hosts AmeriCorps in Asheville.
“You sign up for a year of service. We give you a living stipend, health insurance and if you complete the hours you will get an education award that is over $6,000 that you can use toward paying off student loans or toward grad school— just any kind of education. We also do milage reimbursements and professional development and training,” she said.
According to Campbell, serving with Project POWER AmeriCorps is a full year of experience at different organizations in Asheville while being paid, having health insurance and getting an education award.
“AmeriCorps is really great for people who want to do a gap year or people that are not sure what the next step is after graduation. It is just a really great path to go down,” she said.
There are over 40,000 communities served across the country through AmeriCorps, 1.6 billion hours served by AmeriCorps members and over 270,000 volunteers serving through AmeriCorps according to Campbell.
“It looks amazing because you can put on your resume that it is a year of service through the federal government,” the manager said. “I know on a lot of resumes you need to put what volunteer opportunities you have been involved with and through AmeriCorps you get tons of volunteer opportunities throughout the year that you can put on your resume.”
According to Campbell, Project POWER AmeriCorps is currently in the process of recruiting their team for the year. Students can apply to Project POWER AmeriCorps through the national AmeriCorps website, or by contacting her.
“I wonder if after this pandemic people are just going to want to be more a part of and help our community and serve our community. It has been such an interesting year and I am just hoping that community service just becomes more of a part of what we all want to do.”