Rowena Castillo Lesher
Program Director, Horizons
Rowena Castillo Lesher’s love for education blossomed while serving in the Peace Corps in Paraguay in 2004. She carried that love with her through her career, first as a bilingual teacher in public schools and later in the charter system.
For the past five years, she’s been leading Horizons at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, where she’s also a fourth grade teacher. It’s the first Pennsylvania outpost for the national program, which targets children who are underperforming at school. “It’s the toughest for many families—especially low-income families, where they’re not sure what they can do with their students in the summer time,” says Lesher. “Being able to be a part of the movement of bridging the achievement gap and to target the summer slide is important to me.”
With local partners Ardmore Avenue Elementary School in Lansdale and the Frederick Douglass Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia, it began with kindergarten and first grade students in 2013, growing by a grade each year. This past summer, Horizons had 105 students from kindergarten through sixth grade. “It’s amazing to see how, in year one, we had 30 students, and six summers later we have siblings now in the program,” says Lesher.
At EA, Horizons has compiled over 5,000 volunteer hours annually since its inception, even expanding to the school year. “We really want to maintain a year-round relationship, rather than just a summer relationship with the students,” says Lesher.