For National Giving Day, Allison Williams has challenged her Instagram and Facebook followers to give to an “incredible” organization. The Girls star will send anyone who donates $40 or more to Horizons National a handwritten note and a jar filled with her favorite candy, including Sour Patch Kids and licorice, from Dylan’s Candy Bar.
Horizons runs summer programs on high school and college campuses, helping disadvantaged students avoid the “summer slide” that can set back their educational growth.
“It’s basically a summer program for students from low income families, where they can come continue learning and also have enriching, fun experiences.These incredible campuses are just empty over the summer, why not use them for good? Fill them up with students that don’t want to slide back a grade or two over the course of the summer just because they’re not in an enriching enough environment,” Williams, 27, tells PEOPLE about Horizons.
While helping kids retain what they learn during the school year, Horizons also provides opportunities students wouldn’t have otherwise.
“They of course have regular learning classes, but they also do things like go on field trips, they have music classes, and they learn how to swim,” says Williams, who posted an Instagram pic in support of National Giving Day on Wednesday.
Growing up in Connecticut, Williams went to school with kids who were also Horizons students. But her connection to the non-for-profit has been a family affair for decades.
“My mom chairs the national board, my grandma is on the board, my brother volunteered at one of the programs, my cousins volunteered at one of the D.C. area programs. It’s just always been part of what our family does,” Williams says.
Williams sees Horizons as a “tangible” way to improve education, which the actress believes is paramount in addressing the nation’s recent turmoil.
“I think that with the climate in the country in terms of the unrest that we’ve been seeing in various cities all over, I do thing that a lot of this boils back down to education. Almost every ill that we experience with the country really does. So I think that, for right now specifically, it is a really great time for us to look at our communities and think what can we be doing for these students that maybe don’t have access to the best education over the course of the school year. What can we do for them over the summer to help them catch up or at least stay exactly where they leave off at the end of the school year? Horizons is the answer to that question,” Williams tells PEOPLE.
Although sending your donation receipt of $40 or more to firstname.lastname@example.org will get you a jar of sweets from the “candyholic,” Williams says she’s grateful for contributions of all sizes.
“Truly there is no amount that is insignificant. So if you can give $10, $15, $20 it’s really just an incredible gesture and something that I would personally appreciate. And it will tangibly change the lives of a bunch of students,” the actress says.
Like Williams, those who get involved in the local or national branches tend to be lifelong advocates for Horizons.The actress tells PEOPLE the “compelling program” has a “very very strong alumni hold.”
“The great thing about Horizons is that not only does it escort you on your way up the educational ladder, but once it releases into college people often come back and will give back and volunteer or teach at Horizons. It creates an indelible mark on your upbringing and your education if you’ve gone through it our if it’s touched you in any way.”