“It Runs in the Family” – How Horizons Creates Generations of Growth
by Athena Hamilton, Horizons Alumni
Unsure of her abilities as a Co-Teacher, a young Bernessa Jackson joined the Horizons family on faith and good intentions. In time she found her way, ultimately connecting with students for years to come.
"The kids are hilarious," she smiled. "They say the darndest things." Jackson began working with Horizons at 18 years old, ushered in by her mother, the late Bernestine Batts. Mrs. Batts was a renowned member of the Horizons Savannah family, acting as a kitchen manager for more than a decade before her passing in 2020.
Many would agree that working with youth takes a certain level of patience and professionalism, yet Jackson found success in the role by being an open ear and "big sister" for her students. "I don't know who really had a positive role model and who didn't," she claims. "Maybe there's something that they could bring to me that they couldn't bring to their parents."
Jackson found her efforts reciprocated in the unexpected death of her mother, as many of her former students at Horizons reached out and offered emotional support and kind words. "It was special to know that I made that much of an impact," she says.
Now 33 and mother of two, her role in the Horizons community has shifted. She is now a Horizons parent. She sees the same growth in her oldest daughter as she did in the students she taught.
Her daughter, Raven, is a rising fourth grader, initially joining the program in kindergarten. "She talks about Horizons not only during the summer, but she talks about it all year," Jackson exclaimed. Jackson describes her daughter's development with Horizons as "off the charts", specifically in reading, math, and overall retention.
"She always tells me, 'Mom I learned this at Horizons'", Jackson says. When Horizons is not in session, Jackson and her daughter sustain the flow of learning by revisiting lessons and keeping the knowledge fresh.