Horizons Academy

Horizons Academy

Horizons Academy Developed as Pathway to Employment Program

The School District of Washington has introduced the Horizons Academy beginning this summer and into the 2021-22 school year.

Horizons Academy is a Pathway to Employment Program located at Four Rivers Career Center. This foundational class is offered to exceptional students with a variety of educational barriers in order to focus on an integrated career and technical education curriculum.

School District of Washington Director of Special Services Wendy Turnbough and Four Rivers Career Center Director Andy Robinson have worked together to spearhead the program.

The goal of the program is to provide transformative learning experiences engaging students in a hands-on classroom environment and empowering students to develop skills they need to thrive as they transition from post-secondary education into the community’s workforce, whether it be supported employment or independent employment.

“All students deserve the opportunity to be empowered with the skills to be successful on their road after high school. Horizons Academy will emphasize student strengths, which in turn allows them to find their purpose in life,” Turnbough said. “After collaborating with various business leaders and listening to the needs within our Washington community, the need to expand the Pathways to Employment Program to Four Rivers Career Center was the next logical step. The countless opportunities that will develop from the Horizons Academy will only be a positive result for our students and community.”

The inclusive curriculum taught through the Horizons Academy will include both career skill sets and workplace soft skill development. The attention will be on workforce development as students learn safety, task analysis, and operational procedures. The students will also discover the interpersonal skills necessary to prepare for employment; which may include independent living, communicational skills, and emotional regulation.

The School District of Washington is partnering with Empac Group to run the Horizons Academy program. Empac’s mission is to provide a continuum of employment opportunities to their communities. They currently employ hundreds of those impacted by disability.

The Horizon Academy students learn job skills from their experiences working at Four Rivers Career Center. Empac pays the students who work during the summer. They are not paid during the school year, but receive school credit toward graduation. Once the students graduate from high school, they have the opportunity to be a part of Empac, whether it’s working at their facility or finding a job elsewhere through the Empac program.

“Our job at Empac and working with the School District of Washington in this program is to help provide the soft skills necessary for the students to find jobs after they graduate from high school. There’s always been a gap between when students graduate and when they’re ready to join the workforce. Our job is to keep them active and to keep them growing so they have the confidence to work in their community,” said Empac CEO Tim Poepsel. “We’re anticipating this program to go very well. It’s going to help a lot of people. There was a good amount of discussion and preparation about starting a program like this in our community and the school district was wise enough to make it happen.”

The Horizons program began this summer with three high school students and will continue into the upcoming fall semester, where eight students currently are enrolled in the program at the Career Center, four in the morning and four in the afternoon.

During the summer session, which ended in late July, students worked weekdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. doing various jobs at the Career Center, including making passes for the upcoming Washington Town and Country Fair, moving furniture, cleaning, and landscape work. They were paid and received a lunch break every day, just like being a member of the work force.

Amanda Todd was hired by the District to be the Job Coach for the Horizons Academy. She will serve as the supervisor for the students and lead them in their every day job functions.

It is important to note that as students are exploring these areas and learning new skills, the typically developing students at FRCC are also learning a wide range of skills alongside the students enrolled in the Horizons Academy. These skills include mentoring, breaking down tasks to teach students, and inclusion.

“The Four Rivers Career Center is a simulated workplace that is a mirror reflection of our community. Horizons Academy students will have the opportunity to work alongside Four Rivers students in order to cultivate the perfect workplace, which fosters understanding, acceptance, and mutual respect,” Robinson said. “All levels of a skilled work force is required for any business to be successful. Consequently, Four Rivers Career Center, local businesses, and many other community partnerships will be essential in order to make the most impact for our students and our community.”

Horizons Academy will be used to further students' individual academic and practical experiences as students enhance their individual work talents. All programs at Four Rivers will collaborate with the Horizons Academy and will emulate the workplace environment as project based learning is emphasized.

Horizons Academy coursework is designed to allow students to explore various careers within the pathway as associated with the local community partners. While expanding the work with students with disabilities, FRCC will discover meaningful and sustainable employment opportunities that match all student’s skills, interests, and aspirations whether the student would be a mentor student or a student with an educational barrier.

The Horizons Academy staff will serve their students by providing supported targeted instructional strategies in order to promote individual student success. Implementation of specially designed instruction will ensure students acquire the needed skills to transition to their desired post-secondary opportunity.

The authentic experiences strategically designed through the cooperation of FRCC instructors coupled with School District of Washington special education experts, Empac staff, and community agencies united with industry partners will provide a meaningful school experience and a successful transition to their future career pathways.

“The School District of Washington has afforded us the opportunity to be innovative and focus on student success by providing real-world learning experiences,” Turnbough said. “The Horizons Academy will positively shape these students’ futures through educational excellence and personal growth.”
Horizons Academy Staff

Amanda Todd
Job Coach

Andy Robinson
Four Rivers Career Center Director

Wendy Turnbough
SDOW Director of Special Services