Two years ago today was a tragic one for Horizons for Youth as we lost an extraordinary member of our community, Dr. Shalanda Dexter. She was a loving mother, devoted sister, loyal friend, and cherished colleague. Shalanda embodied light and love. Her laugh was contagious, and her smile could light up any room. She touched everyone with whom she came into contact.
After overcoming great personal obstacles, Shalanda dedicated her life to raising her son, Josh, and to serving other children through education. First as a teacher and then as a member of the Horizons for Youth team, Shalanda educated and advocated for countless students and their families throughout her life.
Shalanda’s passion shined brightest through her advocacy of students with diverse learning needs. She believed strongly that every child has the ability to learn, and that even those who struggle can find great success if given the correct tools. She championed the development of our Diverse Learners Program, which was formally launched in 2016. Under Shalanda’s leadership, the Diverse Learners Program supported students with various learning challenges, such as dyslexia, auditory or visual processing disorders, and ADHD/PTSD. After helping students receive a proper diagnosis, she would work with the students, their parents, and their teachers to create a strategy for success. Time after time, students who had struggled mightily began to find their way. After years of questioning their abilities, they could see how smart they were, and they began to achieve at higher and higher levels. Students could finally see what they were capable of, and their entire lives would be changed as a result.
To build on Shalanda’s legacy, I am thrilled to announce today that The Boler Family Foundation has made an incredibly generous $1.5 million commitment to support our Diverse Learners program over the next five years. With this gift, The Boler Family Foundation is ensuring the ongoing support of our 79 current diverse learners, while also allowing for additional students to receive these life-changing services in the years to come.
Moreover, the members of the Boler family have asked that we name the program in honor of Shalanda.
“We discussed the naming of the program and we are unanimous in asking you to name it for Shalanda. She did far more than anyone else to create and foster the program, and there can be no other name for it.”– Matt Boler
With immense gratitude for the entire Boler Family, it is my honor to share that our Diverse Learner Program will now be known as Shalanda’s Scholars. With Shalanda’s groundwork and the Boler Family’s partnership, future generations of Horizons for Youth diverse learners will receive the love, support, and care that Shalanda emulated so that they can realize their full potential.