CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Antoinette MaGee

When Antoinette MaGee was pregnant she remembers hearing about the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. And once she learned more about it, and visited a site, she was sold. “I knew I wanted my baby to be in the program,” she said. “I used to say ‘Please, Paula just stay around long enough so that I can put my baby in the program.”

MaGee is referring to longtime CDF Freedom Schools partner Paula Woods. She and her husband, Leon, run Success in Challenges, a social service nonprofit organization in Long Beach. MaGee was working with the Woods on some of their other programs.

Almost six years later, MaGee got her wish. Her 5-year-old daughter, Katelynn, is a CDF Freedom Schools scholar at the Success in Challenges site and it would be an understatement to say that Katelynn likes the program. “No I don’t like it,” the young scholar said. “I love it!”

When asked what she likes about it, she responded: “I love everything. My favorite part is everything.”

Although Katelynn is not reading yet, her mother is confident that she is getting the foundation that she needs and her CDF Freedom Schools experience will help her transition to kindergarten.“ She is not only learning, she is comprehending; she is processing information,” MaGee said. “She is also emulating her teachers at home when she is talking to me and her dad.”

As a high school college counselor, MaGee feels programs like CDF Freedom Schools are really important, particularly for children of color. “I definitely believe in empowering and educating the next generation, talking to them about what’s going on today, about history and what kids have been able to do,” she said. “I think it helps my daughter and others see themselves in those people who made a difference.”

MaGee is happy that the program has lived up to her expectations. Every day on the drive home, Katelynn excitedly shares what she learned. “She is flourishing,” said Antoinette, who also has a 2-year-old son. “She is telling us about the stories they read; she wants to come home and read or go to the library and pick out new books. I just hope Ms. Paula continues the program for few more years so I can get my son in there too.”