Reading out loud and celebrating the power within at Freedom Schools

There were laughs, smiles, and cheers from the group of about 50 students, ages five to 13 years old, who sat mesmerized as Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas flipped the pages and read Dylan Pritchett’s The First Music aloud at First Church of God’s Freedom School summer literacy program in Inglewood.

Students shared their favorite types of music with the Supervisor, sang and chanted motional songs and even showed off their acting and vocal skills by narrating the book through sound effects as the Supervisor read out loud. It was a morning filled with joy and the love of learning.

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Throughout the six-week literacy and enrichment program, the Supervisor will be visiting and interacting with students at each of the four Freedom School sites in the second district: First Church of God in Inglewood; First New Christian Fellowship in South L.A., Bethel A.M.E. Church in South L.A. and Community Coalition at Foshay Learning Center in South L.A. To date, over 200 students have enrolled into the second district summer program.

As part of the Freedom School Curriculum, all students read books, participate in arts, crafts, dance, sports and music, go on field trips, and engage in community service in a nurturing environment that fosters growth and development.

[pullquote_right]”This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right]Freedom School’s were established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman. They provide rigorous,  quality summer and after school instruction to children who live in urban areas. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

The program is rooted in the work of the Civil Rights movement, specifically the work of college-age youth during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Freedom Schools apply an intergenerational approach in which college students are trained as “Servant Leader Interns” who work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

Last summer, the Children Defense Fund Freedom School program served over 9,600 children in 84 cities and 29 states, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, worked with Edelman to introduce the program to the Second District last July.

“This program uniquely integrates reading, learning, and civic engagement,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.”  Not only do the children have a wonderful time — I didn’t see a single child today who wasn’t fully engaged and enthusiastic — but the Freedom School curriculum instills tools that are essential to lifelong personal and community empowerment.”

General Press Release (PDF)
First Church of God Freedom School (Photo Slideshow)
Bethel AME Church Freedom School (Photo Slideshow)

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Have a question?  Ask Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  Use the form below to send a question to the Supervisor.  If you prefer the phone, call (213) 974-2222.

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I-405 Closure

Plan Ahead, Avoid The Area, Or Stay Home. That’s the message public safety officials are sending to the public in anticipation of a planned 10-mile, 53-hour closure of the I-405 freeway between the U.S. 101 and I-10 on the weekend of July 16-17, 2011 for planned demolition work on the Mulholland Bridge, part of a major I-405 improvement project.

The Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Metro and Caltrans are informing the public in advance that if they do not have a critical need to be in or near the vicinity of the closure, they are being asked to avoid the area.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has produced a new I-405 closure Public Service Announcement featuring actor Erik Estrada that is available for public use.

Available in English and Spanish, the video PSA reminds the public to Plan Ahead, Avoid the Area or Stay Home during the closure weekend July 16-17, 2011.

Estrada, who played “Poncherello, a California Highway Patrol officer in the popular 1970s-1980s TV show CHiP’s, volunteered to do the PSA to Metro for free in recognition of the importance this freeway improvement project will have in adding carpool lane capacity to the I-405 between the I-10 and U.S. 101 freeways.

PSA in English:

PSA in Spanish:

The specific freeway closure boundaries are as follows:

Northbound I-405: 10-mile closure between I-10 and U.S. 101
Southbound I-405: 4-mile closure between U.S. 101 and Getty Center Drive Ramps
Motorists who must travel through the Los Angeles metropolitan area are advised to use alternate freeways within the region, including the 5, 15, 23, 55, 57, 101, 118, 126, 210, 605 and 710 freeways to bypass the impacted area. In addition, public transportation options are available such as the Metro Rail service within L.A. County and Metrolink servicing the five county Southern California region. Additional alternate route information will be made available on the project web site at

On Friday, July 15, ramps along the 10 mile closure will begin to be shut down as early as 7 p.m., and closure of freeway lanes will begin at 10 p.m. to ensure full freeway closure by midnight. The closure will continue until 5 a.m. Monday morning, July 18. Ramps and connectors will be reopened by 6 a.m. During this closure, the Mulholland Bridge, I-405 freeway and access ramps will be closed.

Sepulveda Boulevard is intended as an alternate route for local resident access only. Sepulveda Boulevard will not have the capacity to accommodate both local and diverted freeway traffic. Those using Sepulveda Boulevard should expect extreme congestion and lengthy delays. Motorists should instead use alternate regional freeway routes to completely bypass the Sepulveda Pass.

Traffic conditions on local streets and freeways within the region of Los Angeles County and beyond are expected to be severe, with significant, multi-hour delays. Motorists who must travel during this weekend are advised to plan ahead, monitor real-time traffic conditions prior to beginning their trips, and follow alternate routes that are provided. Motorists will be informed of the closure in advance by Caltrans-operated freeway message signs with coverage extending into neighboring counties and other metropolitan regions in the state.
Construction crews for the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project plan to demolish half the Mulholland Bridge in the Sepulveda Pass of Los Angeles in order to build a new, widened bridge, and a major carpool lane. The construction activity is part of a $1 billion capacity improvement project for the I-405 freeway.

To reduce the work’s effects on local traffic flow, the Mulholland Bridge demolition and reconstruction will be conducted in two phases. The southern side of the bridge will be demolished first, followed by approximately 11 months of south-side bridge reconstruction. Upon completion of the south side, the northern side of the bridge will be demolished and rebuilt in the same manner. Another extended freeway closure period will be required for the second phase of work approximately one year later.

The Mulholland Bridge, like the Sunset and Skirball Center bridges, must be removed and rebuilt to accommodate the widening of the I-405 freeway as part of the 10-mile northbound carpool lane construction project. The project will officially complete the northbound carpool lane network between Orange County and the San Fernando Valley. Additional project benefits include improved freeway safety through standardized lane and shoulder widths, greater ramp capacities at key locations, new sound and retaining walls, widened overpasses, widened and seismically updated bridges and new landscaping within the project corridor.

The $1 billion project is a joint effort between Metro and Caltrans, and is being constructed by Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. It is scheduled for completion in 2013. For latest updates visit the project web site at or follow the project on twitter: and Facebook at