School ensures students possess ALL the skills needed for success

Since its inception nearly 20 years ago, Horizon Academy has partnered with KUCRL to ensure that students with learning disabilities acquire the academic and social skills necessary to be successful in life. Some Horizon Academy graduates share their stories of success.
"Gina with calf"
Gina Bruhn

Gina Bruhn
Grade school was very hard for me. I was diagnosed as having dyslexia and ADHD. Reading and spelling were especially hard. I was pulled out of class for extra help, and that was embarrassing. I wasn’t learning, and I didn’t think I was able to learn. At my IEP meeting in the fifth grade, my parents were told that without severe intervention, I would probably not graduate from high school. I was reading at the second-grade level.

My parents enrolled me at Horizon Academy, and things started to change. I was taught how to learn. The strategies I learned included SLANT, the Test-taking Strategy, and the writing strategies. I was taught how to advocate for myself with the Self-Advocacy Strategy. I was also taught social skills like introducing myself and having conversations. All of these skills gave me confidence in myself.

I transitioned to another school at the beginning of my eighth-grade year. I was reading at grade level, and the transition went very well. I was able to talk with my teachers and get their help when I needed it. I felt confident in my abilities, and I knew that I could learn.

I graduated from high school, and I am now attending Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City. I have two more courses to take before I can graduate with an associate’s degree in “Art and Teaching.” I plan to attend the University of Missouri in Kansas City for my bachelor’s degree. My goal is to become a certified art teacher.

I am very grateful to the Horizon teachers and the people who developed the strategies. I want to thank them all for giving me the tools I needed to succeed. The strategies I learned at Horizon helped me to find my love for teaching because I was able to see first-hand that anyone can learn with the right teachers and tools.   

"Stuart with saxaphone"
Stuart Zizzo

Stuart Zizzo
When I went to elementary school, I had a bad experience. I did not get the right help or any help at all. The teachers said that I was not trying hard enough. They would not let me go to recess or some assemblies because I was so behind in my work. I had to take home all the work I did not get done and do it as homework. It was very frustrating. It would take almost all night before I got even one assignment done. Then old assignments would just keep piling up on top of the new assignments. I think my teachers were starting to give up on me.

I was diagnosed with dysgraphia, short-term working memory deficits, and ADHD at the end of fourth grade. Once I was diagnosed, the school people decided to support me by sending me to a reading specialist for 20 minutes
a day/4 days a week. That did not come close to helping me.

Then we found Horizon Academy. When I went to Horizon on the first day of fifth grade, I was very nervous and did not think I would fit in, but I just loved it. All the teachers understood exactly what I needed. They were helpful and friendly, students had disabilities just like me, I was able to get my work done on time, and I made a lot of friends. I learned organizational skills and strategies and social skills. I also benefited from the jobs programs, especially PAWS for Freedom, a program where service dogs are trained for people who use wheelchairs. There I met, raised, and trained Emmett, a golden retriever.

After three years at Horizon, I went to a traditional pubic school for eighth grade, and then I attended Blue Valley Northwest High School. While in high school, I became an Eagle Scout. For my Eagle Project, I wanted to give back to Horizon Academy because the staff helped me so much. After talking to the school director, we decided that I would build four raised vegetable beds at Horizon, which are now used for educational purposes. Students are learning how to grow and eat healthy food. I also beautified the back entrance.

I graduated from high school in 2015. I am now attending Pittsburgh State University as a sophomore, and I’m leaning toward Japanese studies as a major. After graduation, I plan to be part of a program where I will teach school in Japan for three years. I credit Horizon with helping me to be successful in high school and college.

Originally published in SIM 30x30+ more stories of success, hope, and innovation (2017, 30x30+17).