Trying New Things at Horizon High School

Katie Sabalones

“Most of us are here because of drugs and mental health,” was the response I got from one student when I asked what brought them to Horizon. Many of the students at this school are teens who have experienced addiction and understand that mental health is critical to recovery and staying sober. At Horizon, they can be in a supported space of learning at their own pace in a small group setting. Various life experiences and creative approaches lead to learning everyday skills.
Through an innovative Second Harvest program, once a week, Second Harvest staff members – Brian and Kylie from Youth and Family Initiatives and Jordyn from Health Programs – go to Horizon to spend time with the Horizon students and help them learn an important life skill – how to cook. One student said,” Most of us already knew how to cut up vegetables, but they show us how to put things together to make it into a meal.”
One of the students I sat with said,”My favorite day was when we made those shrimp tacos, I am not a big fish person, but I loaded mine up with shrimp.” Another student excitedly jumped in, ”My favorite day was when we made burgers and fries from scratch.” Why is this important? Many of the students have a diet consisting of heavily processed and prepackaged foods. The program is getting these kids to try new things and be excited about learning. This experience shows them how to make simple, healthier, and delicious meals. It invites them to explore their own identities through food, teamwork, and creativity.
Admittedly, sometimes there are recipes they don’t love – ”One time we made beet cupcakes, that was SO bad.” To which the rest of the students adamantly agreed. But exploration isn’t always about getting it “just right”, it’s about discovery, creativity, and participation.
When I asked about whether or not they will take these skills with them after high school, they all were quick to respond, “for sure,” “absolutely,” “yes!”

Bob, Teacher at Horizon High School

Horizon has a small team of staff; Bob is one of the main educators of all academic subjects. Many of his students are coming in with difficult backgrounds and high anxiety. Along with our support of the pantry program at the school, our team is helping Horizon with out-of-the-box curriculum solutions. Life Skills is a portion of the day when students are put into situations that allow them to develop knowledge of daily skills, like cooking. Even though Bob focuses largely on academics, he knows it is good for them to just have fun competing for who can make the best pasta from scratch. He laughs about a recent memory when a student who was trying spinach for the first time in their life. With time and the support of enriching programs like ours, he has been able to build trust with his students and has watched them grow emotionally, academically, and socially.