Columbia, SC (WLTX)- The Challenging Horizons Program is an after-school and summer program for students in grades 2-8.
The innovative program gives University of South Carolina students a unique opportunity to learn outside of their own classroom. Meredith MacLeod spent her senior year at Seven Oaks Elementary School.
"Instead of sitting in a classroom, you are doing hands on activities and I feel like you learn more." said MacLeod.
The Challenging Horizons Program focuses on helping low income families and aims to improve behavior and academics amoung kids in some Lexington and Richland schools. Dr. Bradley Smith is a Psychology professor at USC, he's been working with the program since 2001.
"There is a lot of stress involved with lower income families," said Smith.
His goal is to reduce that stress by offering free after-school care for elementary school kids and also free summer programs from middle school kids thanks to a grant from the State Department of Education.
"It really helps out the working families to have after school programs as a safe place to be and provide security for the programs and calm things down and it allows us to get the homework done with the kids," said Smith.
Smith hopes to expand the program amoung other universities across the country.
Smith's major focus is the Challenging Horizons Program (CHP), which is a multimodal after-school and summer program for students in grades 2 to 8. Each semester this innovative program involves dozens of USC students in service-learning experiences that meet an important community need and prepare USC students for professional careers. Graduate students under Dr. Smith's direction take major roles in providing day-to-day services and conducting research on innovations or additions to the program. In 2009, the CHP was recognized by the After-School Alliance with the "After-School Innovator Award." Also, in 2009 the CHP received the "Literacy Champions Award" from the South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. In 2011, the CHP was added to the National Registry of Evidence based Programs and Practices.