This summer, 14 rising seventh-grade students from the greater Charleston area spent six weeks learning financial literacy, honing their leadership skills, and taking wellness classes designed specifically for them at Ashley Hall. It was all part of the growing middle school program at Horizons at Ashley Hall, a tuition-free, all-girls community centered program expanding educational equity in Charleston.

Not only were these seventh-graders, many of whom have been with the program every summer since its inception in 2018, the oldest students on Ashley Hall’s campus this summer, but they were the oldest in the program’s history. “It is exciting to watch our middle school program grow, and I cannot wait for the years ahead as we build out the program even more,” says Executive Director Nolie Mangan who has been with the program for three years. “This past summer, it was incredible to watch our middle school students really step into a new role within the program as mentors and leaders.”

Since its inception, Horizons at Ashley Hall, which worked with 105 students in grades 1-7 this summer, has been growing. The program launched in 2018 with thirty first- and second-graders, and it’s been adding a grade ever since. Building out a specific set of programming for middle schoolers was a natural step to be sure the needs of every student are continually being met and our students continue to be empowered, explains Mangan.

“Our middle school programming is really about providing more choice, more opportunity, more agency in their educational experience, and more exposure to different future careers and future passions,” Mangan says. Next year, the middle school program will expand to include rising eighth grade, and in 2025, the program will reach its goal and max capacity of enrolling 135 students in grades 1-9.

Here’s a snapshot of just a few of the middle school program offerings at Horizons at Ashley Hall, including extracurricular activities and courses through local partnerships:

Financial Literacy

Led by Kionnie Epps (aka The Responsible Homegirl), this class explores entrepreneurship, financial literacy skills, and even gives students the opportunity to design their own business.

Cooking and Nutrition

Rising sixth grade students explore the world of cooking during sessions led by Lowcountry Food Bank featuring core cooking skills, activities, and delicious recipes, all designed how to show how food can make us our best and healthiest selves

Women’s Health

Both rising sixth and seventh grade students take women’s health education sessions through MUSC’s Lotus Initiative. Topics include female anatomy, puberty, and the menstrual cycle. Students are free and encouraged to ask questions and leave campus with information and resources so the conversations can continue at home.


Middle school students explore social emotional learning, mindfulness and mental health through a partnership with Empowered Family, a mental health organization in Mt. Pleasant. Empowered Family counselors and therapists are also available to all Horizons students throughout the summer who may benefit from additional one on one counseling.

Environmental Education

Rising seventh grade students dive into citizen science in their weekly class led by Coastal Expeditions. Through engaging hands-on activities, students learn about their surrounding environment and ecosystem.

Lessons in Leadership

Both rising sixth and seventh grade students took a field trip to James Island County Park Challenge Course this summer to develop leadership and teamwork skills. Rising seventh graders also left campus to participate in a mindfulness and surfing retreat at Folly Beach led by Waves 4 Women.