As the 25th anniversary of New Horizon School in Renton approaches, the school received an early gift; a van.
That vehicle, a King County van delivered by county councilmember Reagan Dunn, helps expand where students can go and learn. The retired van program has helped Renton before, including nonprofits CryOut!, Vision House and the West Hill Somali Youth & Family club. The donated county vehicles have reached the end of their service life and are given to local governments and programs that provide transportation assistance for a variety of King County residents, according to a press release.
New Horizon School serves fourth grade through high school seniors and older with learning differences including Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The nonprofit does cost tuition, around $18,000. Some students’ costs are paid by a referring school district or through financial aid and grants.
“I’m glad to be able to support an organization where students, regardless of needs, abilities or differences, can reach their full potential,” Dunn stated in a press release. “This van will allow these students to access additional learning opportunities at New Horizon School.”
This is the third van New Horizon has received this year. The Transition Extension Program, helping students 18 and older acclimate to employment and a little more independence, are rarely on campus. They spend time volunteering, job shadowing and learning more skills, so the vans now offer a school-supported mode of transportation.
The students in the elementary, middle and high school programs have been able to take field trips, such as a forging workshop at Lawless Forge.
Co-founder, administrator and CEO Marla Veliz said the school started because there weren’t options for the students they serve, those with learning disabilities, attention deficits and other learning differences. A combination of individual parents and teachers got together and wanted to create a school like this.
“Our founders really were the parents, students and teachers,” Veliz said. “The main need was making sure people had choices.”
The school began in Dimmit Middle School when it was out of circulation. After a stint in Burien, the school returned to Renton to the property along Carr Road.
Although located in Renton, they serve students from beyond the county as well. Parents apply through the website and work with Veliz and other staff to see if their student is a good fit.
In the last two decades, Veliz said not much has changed about the students, except how they are diagnosed in the medical world. More kids that were undiagnosed and at New Horizon would not be considered on the Autism spectrum. Kids who struggle with social skills, organization and learning challenges all have a place at the school, which caters the instruction to what they need thanks to the small class sizes. New Horizon has a 6:1 student-teacher ratio. Some students come in that just want a smaller school.
“By building a program that focuses on the learning differences of those with ADD, ADHD, Autism, we’ve moved it into a program that’s very inclusive for all students, regardless if they have a disability or learning difference,” said Timm Hines, co-founder and lead teacher at New Horizon.
Hines said the school has a focus on valuing the students and catering to what they want to do. One of the latest additions outside the van is several 3D printers, which was requested by students. After receiving funds to be able to get the printers, Hines said they now offer both a club and plan to have classes related to the equipment.
A similar story is the big interest in archery at the school. It started with kids expressing an interest in the sport, which Hines wasn’t as familiar with at the time. Now about half of the school is in the archery program each year. Students in a math class learned about construction through building the archery range behind the school. After starting archery at New Horizon, Hines became a member of the U.S. National Archery team and USA archery coordinator for the Washington State Archery Association, which he is no longer participating in. He said now students can participate in archery competitions every year at the school thanks to the range.
No matter the physical or social challenge, students can be in any club, sport or event. These students get to feel included in their prom, whereas they might not be able to access implicitly.
“Here they can be included in everything,” Veliz said.
Over 200 students have earned a diploma through New Horizon school, which is at 100 percent graduation rate, Hines said. One student after graduation moved to Israel for business and marketing, other students get employed locally, for example at Boeing. Alumni often attend performances or graduations.
“It’s kind of like family, they keep coming back,” Veliz said.
“And it gets bigger, too,” Hines added.