As part of its ongoing mission to close the opportunity gap for low-income students, Horizons at Norwalk Community College is expanding beyond its traditional six-week summer program to offer an enrichment program during the school year.  And it is partnering with several local non-profits to do it.

Horizons NCC hosted “Let’s Play Shakespeare,” an interactive workshop for children in kindergarten through fifth grade on Saturday, April 28,  at Norwalk Community College’s East Campus.  The program was created in collaboration with local theater company Shakespeare on the Sound, and focused on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  The event featured both a drama workshop, presented by Shakespeare on the Sound, and a literacy workshop provided by the Horizons summer staff.  Students explored the themes of love and friendship, as portrayed in the play.

The collaboration marks the beginning of Horizons’ push to offer year-round programming for its students, an initiative that Executive Director Rachel Dewey of Darien said is critical to helping students reach their potential.

“Exposing the kids to this type of enrichment, both from the point of view of the actual Shakespeare play, which they don’t have access to on a regular basis, but also in its very interactive form, really goes to the heart of who we are, what Horizons is as a program, and what we are trying to achieve on multiple levels,” Dewey said.

Horizons, which began at New Canaan Country School in 1964 and has since expanded to 17 states with a network of 51 affiliated locations, is a tuition-free academic support and enrichment program for low-income children starting in pre-kindergarten.  The Norwalk Community College location was founded in 2013 and serves Norwalk residents from public, charter and parochial schools. Each child, upon entering, must be at the free or reduced lunch income level; once accepted, students ideally remain in the program for eight to nine years.  

While Horizons is generally funded by a variety of individual and corporate donations, in order to raise the $1,450 required for “Let’s Play Shakespeare” Dewey turned specifically to another local non-profit: The Impact Vine, a new crowdfunding website set up by The Community Fund of Darien last year.

“We had been involved with The Community Fund in a couple of different ways, and we saw this as an interesting opportunity to reach out to a broader level of the community to make people aware of what we are doing, as well as support their efforts in developing a crowd fund-raising platform,” Dewey said.

So far, the partnership is working: As of early this week, Horizons had raised almost $1,300 of the $1,450 needed to stage the event.  

According to Dewey, the investment in this type of school-year programming is crucial to the long-term development of its students.  

“The continuity is a critical component to our programming, both in the summer and in any school year programming that we do,” Dewey said. “It is key to helping our kids, who come back year in and year out.”

Donations to “Let’s Play Shakespeare” can be made online at