Summer Reading Program Ends but the Celebration of Learning and Reading Continues

Laughter, chants, and cheers were heard throughout the lower level of Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in Los Angeles from Freedom School students and student interns from all four Second District school sites as the children, along with parents and special guests, gathered together one last time to celebrate the end of this year’s program.[pullquote_right] “Keep reading, learning, and expanding your minds. Continue to celebrate the power within you, in school and in life,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.[/pullquote_right]

Throughout the afternoon Freedom School students jumped in the jumper, stopped by the bookmobile and had the opportunity to speak with special guest Antwone Fisher who spoke to the entire group of young scholars about overcoming dyslexia and the connection between reading and being successful.

The abundance of hugs given out by the young scholars told the story of a bittersweet ending to a summer of fun; the tight bonds formed between the children and their older mentors will not easily be erased.

When asked what she liked most about Freedom Schools, Zarian Watson, age nine, from Inglewood, said,” I loved Harambee, jumping around, and reading my new favorite book Whatever Happened to Humpty Dumpty.”

Her mother, Cheryl Watson, added “My daughter couldn’t wait to go to Freedom Schools. One Monday morning, I wasn’t feeling well enough to drive and she cried to go to Freedom Schools.”

The Freedom School 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.

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, includes reading, arts and crafts, dance, music, field trips, sports, and community service. Students begin the morning with Harambee, a time of informal sharing based on the Kenyan tradition of community, during which students cheer, chant motivational songs and make announcements; it closes with a moment of silence.

Throughout the summer, Freedom Schools hosted over 200 student scholars. These scholars attended sessions at one of four Second District sites: 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.

After a final chant was recited and the applause stopped, the Supervisor offered these words to the young scholars:

“Keep reading, learning, and expanding your minds. Continue to celebrate the power within you, in school and in life.”

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.