Jimyah Bell was 10 years old when she first started going to tutoring at a Horton’s Kids community center.
Even though she hated math, the tutoring helped her grasp difficult concepts and gain confidence in her schoolwork. But Bell, now 18, said the most helpful thing was watching all of the high school seniors in the program graduate and leave for college every year, a result of Horton’s Kids 100% high school graduation rate for students enrolled in the organization.
“They’re opening up more opportunities for people,” Bell said. “They’re a reliable source.”
Bell is one of over 600 students currently being served by Horton’s Kids, a nonprofit organization that provides academic support, extracurricular programming and health and wellness resources to children in Ward 8.
Founded in 1989 by Capitol Hill staffer Karin Walser, Horton’s Kids has grown from a small enterprise that involved taking children in Wellington Park out on field trips to an organization that provides programming out of three different community centers in Southeast D.C.
The organization celebrated the grand opening of its newest and largest community center, Horton’s Hub, on Feb. 3.
Erica Ahdoot, Horton’s Kids’ executive director, said she was excited to expand the organization’s capabilities with the new space. The hub, which is located in a renovated church in Southeast D.C., is within walking distance of multiple different neighborhoods in the area.
“We really feel like it could be this conduit to bring in some of these amazing resources to a place where there’s a lot of trust already built and where it can be highly accessible to people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Ahdoot said.
Adhoot said the organization plans to use the new space to deepen their multigenerational approach, on top of instituting more academic and extracurricular programs for the kids.
Horton’s Hub features two “wellness rooms” where mental health resources will be provided to families through partnerships with local organizations, as well as meeting spaces to host job trainings and resource fairs. A garage at the front of the church is also in the process of being turned into a storefront where personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and healthy food will be distributed to the community.
“I think it’s really hard for a child to thrive if the household itself really needs some additional support and bolstering,” Ahdoot said. “Our goal is to partner with families to figure out what’s needed in order for them to do that and to create the right kind of pathway for their child to be successful in whatever goals that they set.”
Yvette Pinkney enrolled her three daughters in Horton’s Kids a few years ago, after a community resource center opened in the building she lived in. She said the organization helped her family with everything from getting household cleaning items to providing mental health support for one of her daughters.
“Depending on what I need, I can go and be assigned to a caseworker, and then you go and talk to your caseworker about what you need,” Pinkney said. “If they don’t have the resources, they definitely will give you information where you can go and get the resources that you need.”
Bell felt the same. Now a high school senior herself, she’s excited to graduate and has her sights set on culinary school. But she said she knows that she can rely on Horton’s Kids for support even after she’s done with high school.
“They say after you’re 18, you’re grown and you’re basically on your own. That’s not true,” Bell said. “Horton’s Kids sticks by you, until you basically are old enough to start working here.”