Jeannette native Dan Horn writes about transforming schools
A Jeannette native, Dan Horn originally moved to Los Angeles to become a movie star, the problem was, he said, “I was a horrible actor. I didn't have the fire in belly you need to have.”
However, what Horn does have is a “fire in the belly” to teach children and to help them to build character.
Horn lived on Second Street growing up with his brother, Bob, who still lives in Jeannette, as does his mother, Aldene. Horn's sister, Mary, lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Growing up, Horn enjoyed writing and acting in plays. He did quite a bit in elementary school and was also involved in theater in high school.
Horn attended Sacred Heart School and then graduated from Greensburg Central Catholic.
Horn received his undergraduate degree in teaching from the University of Pittsburgh and earned a graduate degree from the University of San Francisco.
After graduating from college, Horn taught at Immaculate Conception and then relocated to Virginia where he taught in the Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C areas.
At 25, he decided if he wanted to pursue his lifelong dream of acting, he needed to move to Hollywood.
He knew he couldn't teach, because he needed time to pursue his career, so he looked for other types of jobs in the industry that would leave him free to take courses and go to casting calls.
During his time in Hollywood, Horn worked as a band runner for Michael Jackson, a Hollywood tour guide, and always a fan of singer Helen Reddy, he wrote her a letter and was actually able to secure employment with her.
Over time, he and Reddy became friends and he also became tired of job hopping.
“Not knowing how much money I would make one day to the next and not having any health insurance was hard,” said Horn.
“Then I saw an ad in the LA Times for a Catholic school principal and I thought to myself, ‘If I was the principal I would only have to ask myself for time off, so I could still purse my acting career.'”
“Fortunately, I didn't get the job, but it started me on another course, thinking about what it would be like to get back into education,” said Horn.
Now, Horn is the president principal at St. Genevieve School in Los Angeles.
An inner-city school that had a load of problems when he became principal, Horn has moved the school forward, tripling its attendance and making it a school that students want to attend — not just a school they have to attend.
“Growing up in Jeannette prepared me for the future,” said Horn.
“It is something about small-town values. I think we are in a crisis of character and the small town values I learned from my family and my neighbors prepared me for this job.”
St. Genevieve's has been designated by the Character Education Partnership as a World Character School thanks to Horn through the caring attitude he brought to the school and the values that he works to instill in his students.
“The school was financially in trouble, the morale was horrible.
“I went to the first football game and the stadium was virtually empty. I thought I had the wrong night. So it seemed natural that we would start to build morale. I applied for a parade permit to close down Roscoe Boulevard, a major highway, so we could have a homecoming parade.”
According to Horn, much more grew out of that — including the formation of a marching band, floats and now the whole school participates.
It was the beginning of redesigning St. Genevieve's and, according to Horn, he learned it all from living in Jeannette.
President Jimmy Carter and Reddy have both been speakers at St. Genevieve's and this year Horn published a book entitled “Anointed Moments,” which outlines his journey while transforming his schools.
Those interested in reading Horn's book can purchase it at danhornbooks.com or he has left a few signed copies, available at a slightly lower price, at his brother Bob Horn's home in Jeannette.
Anyone interested in purchasing a signed copy should call Bob Horn at 724-527-3040.
Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.