Class of 2022: Horizon Institute’s First Graduating Class to be Honored

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Class of 2022: Horizon Institute’s First Graduating Class to be Honored

The Horizon Institute will graduate its first class of seniors on June 16 at 5 p.m. at Daily’s Place. Speakers will include Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, in addition to organizational leaders including Dr. Alan Hall and John Risner.

As of the time of this story, 146 students have met graduation requirements and will be members of the Horizon Institute Class of 2022. Other seniors, with the support of a dedicated faculty, are striving to meet requirements to be part of this first annual event. End-of-school-day on Wednesday, June 15, will be the cutoff for walking in the Thursday graduation. 

The Horizon Institute is a public-private partnership for alternative education that launched in August 2021. It grew to 978 students and more than 30 staff members in its first year of operations. It serves young people in Duval County who are considered two or more grade levels behind their age in grades 6-12. Duval County Public Schools contracted with RCEO, a nonprofit organization, to develop and operate the Horizon Institute as a tuition-free dropout prevention and grade recovery program. RCEO owns San Jose Support, which provides innovation and management expertise to Horizon Institute and public charter schools in Florida. 

The Horizon Institute helps students with course recovery so that they can choose to return to their home school or remain enrolled at Horizon Institute through graduation. Students can achieve the 18-credit, Florida-approved ACCEL diploma, which prepares them for continuing education in college, jobs and apprenticeships that require a high school diploma, or to serve in a branch of the U.S. Armed Services. ACCEL stands for “Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning,” according to the Florida Department of Education.

“These students left the mainstream, which wasn’t meeting their needs,” says Mr. Risner, superintendent of Horizon Institute. “They accelerated their learning to catch up. Then they had to exceed that to be able to graduate. There are at least 146 different stories of overcoming struggle and winning in this Class of 2022. I am also immensely proud of how the Horizon Institute teaching team goes above and beyond to lift students, serve their educational needs and walk side-by-side with them to the finish line.”

“The Class of 2022 has raised the bar and set an example for the entire student body,” says Dr. Hall. “This is the beginning of something extraordinary in the life of these graduates, and also for the many more graduates who will follow in the years to come at the Horizon Institute.”

Horizon Institute currently has three satellite campuses in Jacksonville: W 25th Street, Beach Boulevard and at Youngerman Circle. A fourth campus will open in July 2022 on Wesconnett Street. The school offers classes year-round with the goal of maximizing the number of students the program can serve and the quality of educational services provided. 

Dr. Hall, Mr. Risner and representatives of the Graduation Rate Initiatives Team (GRIT) in Duval County Public Schools teamed up in the Spring and Summer of 2021 to ask and answer what more could be done to meet the needs of Jacksonville students who struggle the most.

“We are grateful for the leadership of DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene, the Duval County School Board, and the enthusiasm for this program by city council members. The Horizon Institute commencement showcases how the private and public sectors can work together to create meaningful change,” says Dr. Hall.