I love writing for TrainUp Voices because every now and then, I get to write about some truly brilliant people, who make a great and positive impact on the world around them. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Seth Henderson, founder of New Horizons of North Texas, an organization that is doing some powerful work to better the lives and communities of at risk youth in greater Dallas.

His program benefits children in North Texas who are struggling in school, whose families are facing financial hardship, and who are simply not receiving the outside support needed to reach their fullest potential. I spoke to Seth about his emotional and spiritual mentoring efforts through the New Horizons program, and how his initiative is changing his community. This is what he had to say:

 What are some statistics impacting our community here in Dallas?

“Dallas has a growing citywide child poverty and literacy challenge. In 2016 Dallas was notoriously given the distinction of the city with the highest child poverty rate among the ten largest US cities. The long-term effects of poverty are demonstrated by the following:

Studies from Commit! Show that an overwhelming 1 in 3 Dallas County fourth graders students do not read at a level on track for college.

In addition, an estimated 97,000 students in Dallas County are left alone after school; Without adequate academic support at home, these struggling readers are 4x more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers; By the year 2030, it is estimated that the number of functionally illiterate adults in Dallas County will reach 1 million, with this number outpacing population growth.

Finally, with approximately 86 percent of Dallas ISD students classified as “economically disadvantaged,” and approximately 66 percent identified as “at risk,” there are thousands of local children projected to become another negative statistic. A long-term, relational strategy is necessary, and this is the work of New Horizons. We refuse to let our kids become another negative statistic!”

What are some of the struggles that youth today are facing in our community?

“Our kids are living in environments of poverty and academic struggle lacking hope and spiritual awareness. We have found some really caring parents and great kids simply struggling. Poverty has made it really difficult for them to function in a healthy way with parents working long hours and multiple jobs to provide for their kids. So many youth are left alone to care for themselves and have to grow up really fast with limited guidance, homework help, and general adult supervision.”

Why did you start this program?

“Every child is full of God-given potential and possibility. Yet, quite often our kids simply don’t believe this about themselves and struggle with low self-confidence and a low view of self when they don’t do well in school. This journey of self-confidence, struggle, hopelessness, and academic work is part of my personal story, and I feel a sense of passion and responsibility to help some of the most underprivileged kids in my own city. Each day we get the opportunity to build relationships with kids and tell them a different story – a story of hope, possibility, and potential – a story really about their true selves.”

What types of activities and tutoring efforts do you provide?

“We have found great beauty and impact in simplicity and consistency.

On a daily basis, our students experience these activities:

  • Tutoring: Students receive individualized literacy and homework support working in small groups. Mentoring: Students experience relationships from committed and caring mentors and belong to a safe learning community.
  • Character Building: Students receive faith-based character education that empowers them to make positive choices and discover the power of faith. Throughout the school year, students also get to experience field trips and hearing from Community Speakers who inspire our kids to succeed or to learn from their mistakes. (Examples: Jeremy Tillman, Milton Anderson from Merriman-Anderson Architects – kids also got to experience VR used for architecture, and a group of kids from Texas Juvenile Justice Department).”

 

What impact has New Horizons had on the community since it began in 2015?

“The history of New Horizons goes back 15 years when New Horizons of Southwest Florida began over 15 years ago. New Horizons has demonstrated a strong program track record. Among others, students have made a 42% improvement in Reading; 73% of students achieved a grade of “C” or higher in Language Arts; and 92% of students say they feel better about school and their abilities. New Horizons has graduated 58 seniors who are now attending college, vocational school, or serving in the military. In 2015, New Horizons of North Texas launched in Dallas to impact our own community. During our first year of programming in the 2015-2016 school year, 20/28 students from Edward Titche Elementary in Southeast Dallas (Pleasant Grove) completed program requirements. Our most consistent reader was selected to be the most improved student in his third grade class, and his teacher attributed his growth to his time with New Horizons. New Horizons’ students collectively read an additional 20,000 plus minutes, received over 2100 hours of mentoring and 2500 “third-meals,”and participated in 40 plus hours of character teaching.

Consequently, school attendance for the students improved by 36% compared to their previous year, and 100% of our students improved their reading level with an average of 6 months of growth. At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, we expanded our program to a new program site serving at-risk students from Alex Sanger Elementary.”

 

How many young people have entered the program since 2015?

“We started with 16 kids in 2015 at one school and are now working with 45 kids on a daily basis at two schools.

 

Who is eligible for this program?

We serve kids who read below grade level, are economically disadvantaged, and are considered “at-risk” by their school and currently serve kids from two Dallas elementary schools.”

How long do these kids receive support from this program?

“New Horizons is built on a long-term, relational strategy. So, once a student enrolls in New Horizons, they have the opportunity to receive support until they graduate high school. We begin with a group of elementary students and add a grade until we eventually provide long-term wrap-around support for students in middle school all the way through their high school graduation.”

 

What are your goals for this program?

“Our model is a long-term relationship that has been effective for the last 15 years by our parent organization in Southwest Florida.  Our elementary program goals include:

  • Providing reading support and tools to at-risk students helping them develop self-confidence that moves them towards achieving a “C” or higher in reading and reading on grade level.
  • Creating a safe environment where students are influenced by a personal mentor to meet school attendance requirements and achieve their full God-given potential.
  • Developing an awareness of the power of faith that encourages right relationship with God, self, and others to display positive character traits throughout their life.

Long-term, we are working to impact every school in a high school feeder pattern in East Dallas that has 9 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 1 high schools.”

 

What you’re doing is obviously important in many ways. What does this program mean to this community and its participants?

 Parent Quote 1:

“I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how thankful we are for the New Horizons program and the

difference we have seen in our son this year. He finishes all his reading work, and now actually trying to

read “everything” signs, instructions on his games, books. They are so much more than just tutors; they

are teaching him leadership and stewardship skills. He is a mentor for the younger kids and helps them

with reading. It’s improving on his proficiency and helping him learn invaluable skills how to teach and

helps others which is helping with his behavior and self-control. I have even had other parents notice how

happy and more balanced he seems this year. We cannot say enough about the New Horizon’s program

and changes we’ve seen in our son. Not just with his reading, but the leadership, confidence and spiritual

side.”

 

Parent Quote 2:

 

“I love the fact that everyone at New Horizons cares for all of the kids’ well being, spirituality, education,

and ambitions/goals. This program helps the parents as well as the children.”

Principal Ena Meyers, Edward Titche Elementary

 

“New Horizons has given our campus the much needed support and given our students a new hope. We

have noticed a difference in the choices our kids make and the effort they put into their class work. New

Horizons is truly helping our students write a different story!”

 

How can someone join in to support your program?

“1. Volunteer – serve as a Reading Mentor or on a volunteer committee

2. Donate – make a one-time donation or setup a recurring donation

3. Champion – spread the need in Dallas and share the work New Horizons is doing”

 

What is the most rewarding experience you have had since you began New Horizons of  North Texas?

“Seeing the kids literally race from their school classroom to the New Horizons’ classroom is really fun to watch.  Another thing we love is our kids telling their friends that New Horizons is “like my second family” because they know it’s a safe place for them and experience really loving mentors. Finally, seeing the attitude, behavior, and academic adjustments in students like Alonzo, Quintrayvious, Sammy, Ana, and Joselyn is so rewarding. Our work can be really hard, so seeing the “light bulb” moments is rewarding and rejuvenating to keep going!”

 

How can someone volunteer or donate to this program?

“The easiest way is to visit our website and complete the online forms at

http://www.newhorizonsofntx.org/get-involved.  I’m always happy to make myself available via phone

call/email (972-861-2963 | seth@newhorizonsofntx.org) or to meetup over a good cup of coffee to

answer any additional questions about our work and the opportunity to get involved impacting the life of a child!”

 

What does each donation provide for a child enrolled into the program?

“Our programs are 100% privately funded, so we rely upon the generosity of the community around us.

Here are some examples of what a donation provides:

  • $25 provides 1 new mentor.
  • $50 helps provide 2 days of after-school mentoring.
  • $100 provides program materials for 1 student for 1 year.
  • $500 sponsors a child for our summer reading camp.
  • $1000 helps sponsors a child for an entire school year.”

I really enjoyed interviewing Seth and learning about his program. To learn more about New Horizons of North Texas, and find out how you can help, click HERE.

Seth is also going to be hosting a fundraising golf tournament on June 5th, 2017 at the Las Colinas Country Club in Greater Dallas. For information about this event, and how you can participate, please visit the event website at:  http://newhorizonsofntx.org/golf/  or click here. The event will also feature celebrity athletes, prizes, a silent auction, and a raffle. If you would like to participate, you can register as a single golfer or as a team though the event website. If you would like to sponsor this event, you may contact Tom Cooper for Sponsorship Inquiries at: (817) 706-4330 or at: golf@newhorizonsofntx.org