Six Weeks of Happiness, and Hope by Nancy Mugele

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Horizons’ six-week summer program returned to Kent School this week and I could not be happier. Since 1995, when Horizons first opened its doors at Kent School, the academic enrichment program has served hundreds of Kent and Queen Anne’s County children from economically disadvantaged families, as part of a national initiative to improve or maintain their scholastic skills during the summer months.

The summer program in Kent County serves 110 students in PK – Grade 8. There is also a high school mentoring program for graduating 8th graders. This June all five of the high school seniors who remained in the program graduated from Kent County High School. Four of the graduates are planning to attend community college and one plans to enlist in the Army. It is heartwarming that one of the graduates is a Horizons intern at Kent School this summer, giving back to an organization that proved transformative.

And, it most definitely fills me with great hope for the future when programs like Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s – one of 51 national affiliates – serve and support vulnerable students on their educational journey. Statistics show that students from low income families are six times more likely to drop out of high school and have a 50% chance of being unemployed. Congratulations to the Horizons graduates! We are very proud of your accomplishments.

Hope abounds during Horizons’ Six Weeks of Happiness. It is simply wonderful to host dedicated educators and mentors, families who value education, and students filled with intellectual curiosity on our campus to brighten our classrooms in the summertime. Many of our teacher desks were transformed into jeeps for an immersion in animals on safari this summer led by creative teacher/drivers! I cannot wait to watch it all unfold over the next few weeks.

While I greatly miss the joyful noise of laughter and fun when Kent School students are away for summer vacation, hosting Horizons brings a palpable, new energy to campus. I am also grateful that the YMCA of the Chesapeake uses our campus for programming in the summer and that we are the site of Victory Field Hockey Camp. Busy school campuses in summer provide six weeks (or more!) of happiness for administrators and twelve-month employees who work tirelessly, in skeletal crews, from June through August to complete and close one academic year and prepare to open the next.

Happiness and hope are two impactful words with powerful emotions attached to them. Every time I drive across Hope Road on Route 301N as I head home from the Western Shore, I smile to myself and breathe in Eastern Shore contentment. You can feel hope in the air. Merriam Webster defines hope as a verb “to cherish a desire with anticipation or to want something to happen or be true” but I prefer to think about hope as poet Emily Dickinson describes in the first stanza of “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops—at all

Hope is the one true thing that allows us to stay positive even in the face of defeat, sadness or anger. Hope compels us to discover our shared humanity, and to believe that a better world is always possible. Hope for our collective future, mirrored in the faces of all teachers and all learners, is nourishment for the soul. Hope is our fuel.

I bet you are wondering if Happiness or Hope will be the word for Kent School in the 2018 – 2019 50th Anniversary academic year. That is another story which I will share later this summer. These words may, or may not, be on my short list! Happy Summer!

To learn more about Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s visit http://horizonskentqueenannes.org

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

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