Horizon Institute’s First Graduating Class: Commencement Ceremony June 16

Class of 2022 Sets a Positive Example for Future Horizon Graduates

The Horizon Institute will graduate its first class of seniors on June 16 at 5 p.m. at Daily’s Place. Speakers will include Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, CEO of River City Education Organization (RCEO) Dr. Alan Hall and Superintendent of Horizon Institute John Risner.

As of the time of this story, 146 students have met graduation requirements and will be members of the Horizon Institute Class of 2022.

The Horizon Institute is a public-private partnership for alternative education that launched in August 2021. It grew to 978 students and more than 30 staff members in its first year of operations. It serves young people in Duval County who are considered two or more grade levels behind their age in grades 6-12. Duval County Public Schools contracted with RCEO, a nonprofit organization, to develop and operate the Horizon Institute as a tuition-free dropout prevention and grade recovery program. 

RCEO also manages public charter schools in Jacksonville, including San Jose Primary and San Jose Prep, which offer K-12 on one campus in the Mandarin neighborhood; San Jose Cyber, an online K-12 school that opened in 2021 to serve K-12; and San Jose Early College at Cecil, which opens in August 2022 on the Westside for grades 9-12.

The Horizon Institute helps students with course recovery so that they can choose to return to their home school or remain enrolled at Horizon Institute through graduation. Students can achieve the 18-credit, Florida-approved ACCEL diploma, which prepares them for continuing education in college, jobs and apprenticeships that require a high school diploma, or to serve in a branch of the U.S. Armed Services. ACCEL stands for “Academically Challenging Curriculum to Enhance Learning,” according to the Florida Department of Education. 

“These students left the mainstream, which wasn’t meeting their needs,” says John Risner, superintendent of Horizon Institute. “They accelerated their learning to catch up. Then they had to exceed that to be able to graduate. There are at least 146 different stories of overcoming struggle and winning in this Class of 2022. I am also immensely proud of how the Horizon Institute teaching team goes above and beyond to lift students, serve their educational needs and walk side-by-side with them to the finish line.”

“The Class of 2022 has raised the bar and set an example for the entire student body,” says Dr. Hall. “This is the beginning of something extraordinary in the life of these graduates, and also for the many more graduates who will follow in the years to come at the Horizon Institute.”

Horizon Institute currently has three satellite campuses on W 25th Street, Beach Boulevard and at Youngerman Circle. A fourth campus will open in July 2022 on Wesconnett Street. The school offers classes year-round with the goal of maximizing the number of students the program can serve and the quality of educational services provided. 

Dr. Hall, Mr. Risner and representatives of the Graduation Rate Initiatives Team (GRIT) in Duval County Public Schools teamed up in the Spring and Summer of 2021 to ask and answer what more could be done to meet the needs of Jacksonville students who struggle the most.

“We are grateful for the leadership of DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene, the Duval County School Board, and the enthusiasm for this program by city council members. The Horizon Institute commencement showcases how the private and public sectors can work together to create meaningful change,” says Dr. Hall.