Beyond the Block: How Horton’s Kids Combat Anacostia Violence

Photo Courtesy: Horton's Kids 

After almost 30 years of serving in the Anacostia community, Horton’s Kids remains dedicated to tapping into the potential of a neighborhood of kids historically bothered by violence.

According to an areavibes estimate, the overall crime rate in Anacostia is 214 percent higher than the national average. The at-risk status of Anacostia children has been prevalent for the past two decades.

Macey Franklin, a former Anacostia resident, was personally affected by the street violence of Anacostia. “I lost a brother. In 2003, I lost my older brother. It really took us by surprise. It devastated us,” Franklin said.  Franklin was only 12 years old when his 17-year-old brother Charles was shot to death.

Through it all Franklin stayed strong for his mother Mitzi, who motivated him to join the local non-profit Horton’s Kids, an outlet for children to study and have instruction time with tutors. “My mother was still going on and she wanted to see positivity in her sons even though a negative thing had happened. I wanted to be positive for my mother and keep her smiling,” said Franklin.

Horton’s Kids is an organization, that Franklin said helped keep him focused. “That was the only organization that I had ever really seen,” Franklin said. “I didn’t really see any other organizations, so I always wanted to join.” Franklin said his tutors helped him to want better for himself, but he credited his mother for keeping him dedicated when he reached a point where he wanted to quit the program.

Franklin isn’t the only Anacostia resident Horton’s Kids helped improve in school. Bonnie Goldberg, a supervisor at Horton’s Kids, spoke about a particularly rewarding moment with her student during her tenure as a volunteer. “One of the stories that I always think about is when the 3rd grader that I was working with was struggling with the sight words and she made tremendous growth. She went from reading sight words to reading chapter books…One day we were dealing with sentences using the word “because” and she said, ‘“I love myself because I am smart’!” “how great is that for a kid to recognize that within hemselves…that’s something that is tough for even adults to do,” said Goldberg.

Despite all the impact Horton’s Kids has on the lives of its students, Goldberg was still adamant to express the non-profit’s openness to welcome new children. “All of the children in the neighborhood are welcome to participate in our programs. We have a community service resource center that is located right in the neighborhood. It is just steps from the children’s homes, so we are a safe place they can get everything from a healthy meal to homework help.”  Goldberg said that Horton’s Kids keeps an open criteria, because the organization does not want to exclude students who may need the resources the most.

Horton’s Kids has helped 86 percent of high school seniors in the program graduate, according to Robin Berkley, a volunteer. Berkley also said 93 percent of the students being tutored improved their literacy skills.

Even with the aid of Horton’s Kids,  Franklin said there is room for improvement in the Anacostia community. “The violence in Anacostia speaks for itself. Everyone sees the statistics,” said Franklin. Franklin, who became part of AmeriCorps and now works in D.C. as a legal assistant, said that many in his neighborhood did not have the same positive outlook.

As one of Horton’s Kids touted success stories, Macey Franklin cites the non-profit as a positive influence on his life, and he advocates for such outlets in Anacostia to develop child engagement. Franklin said, “A lot of people see that block as their livelihood. They feel like they have to protect their livelihood. They still don’t see beyond the block.” Anacostia children who want a resource for school to escape neighborhood violence are welcome to visit the Horton’s Kids Community Resource Center. It is located at 2500 Pomeroy Rd. SE, Washington, DC 20020.