Freedom Schools Return to the Second District

For the fourth year in a row, the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools, an exciting six-week summer literacy and enrichment program for children ages 5 to 18-years-old, is underway in the Second District.  This year, however, a brand new program at two county probation camps also will take place. Youths living in Camp Miller in Malibu and Camp Afflerbaugh in La Verne will take part in the Freedom Schools program, which has had national success in improving self-confidence, creating a love of learning and bolstering reading. It is part of a broader effort to enhance the educational approach in youth camps so they are less punitive and more focused on a positive learning experience.

[pullquote_right] “It instills an enduring love of learning,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. [/pullquote_right]The program, will host over 500 students from June 17 to August 16. These scholars will attend summer school at one of six Second District sites: Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, First Community Development Corporation in Inglewood, Read Lead Carson at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Read Lead Lynwood at Helen Keller Elementary School, Community Coalition at the Crenshaw Christian Center and First New Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

Established in 1992 by Children’s Defense Fund founder and children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman, Freedom Schools provide rigorous, quality summer and after school instruction to children in urban environments. The programming, which is both challenging and entertaining, is based on the belief that all children are capable of learning and achieving high standards.

Students begin the morning with Harambee, a time of informal sharing based on the Kenyan tradition of community, in which students read aloud, sing, cheer and chant motivational songs, announcements and recognitions, closing with a moment of silence.

The children then go on to read and make their stories come to life by painting and drawing them. They dance and sing and go on field trips, play sports and make time for community service.

The mission of Freedom Schools is to ensure every child regardless of race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or geographic origin has a healthy, fair, safe, and moral start to education, combing literacy, nutritious foods and a positive learning environment.

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” and work as reading tutors and role models, motivating children to develop positive attitudes about themselves and their abilities.

“The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program not only celebrates literature, it instills an enduring love of learning,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is sponsoring the school sites. “It is a model program for how children learn but also how they acquire the skills necessary to be successful in life. They learn to value themselves, respect one another and share in the success of their friends and peers. I am thrilled to see the program’s expansion in Los Angeles County, and I know that each and every child who participates will never be the same.”