Programs and Campaigns

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National Day of Social Action

"If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it.  You have an obligation to change it.  You just do it one step at a time."
- CDF President Marian Wright Edelman

Each year, thousands of children and teens from CDF Freedom Schools sites nationwide participate in CDF Freedom Schools® National Day of Social Action. The social action and civic engagement component of the CDF Freedom Schools model teaches youth to engage in community service and social justice advocacy.  Participants take part in a variety of actions including visiting and writing letters to elected officials, joining together for marches and rallies and leading awareness activities.

Children learn to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they become more responsible members of their communities. Servant leader interns encourage the children not only to explore the problems facing their communities, but also to become active in working toward solutions.

2011 National Day of Social Action

Freedom Schools Scholars

The Children’s Defense Fund was proud to launch this year's National Day of Social Action on July 13 in coordination with CDF Freedom Schools® partners across the country. There are 151 CDF Freedom Schools sites, in 87 cities across 27 states. This year’s National Day of Social Action was focused on the urgent need to stop proposed cuts in federal education programs that benefit millions of children throughout America.

On this National Day of Social Action, young leaders and their CDF Freedom Schools students hosted “teach-ins” for community members, policymakers, advocates, and parents about the looming federal budget cuts that pose a huge threat to public education and great harm to children.  For instance, the Ryan budget recently passed by the House of Representatives would roll back education and early education funding to 2008 levels, cut Pell Grants by as much as $126 billion (more than $800 per grant), and slash $770 billion from health care funding that protects one in three children—all while giving $4.2 trillion in tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations.  These potential cuts come on top of the local and state cuts that have already hurt our children’s education.

The young leaders and students embodied the CDF Freedom Schools theme: “I Can Make A Difference” by sharing real stories of what these federal budget cuts would mean to them.  They engaged the community to take action by writing letters to their congressional lawmakers, urging them to protect children from all budget cuts and to invest in early childhood development and education to strengthen America’s economic future.  Please join them in standing up for children and defending education from budget cuts! Contact Chris Glaros at 614-222-0390 or

Find out if there is a CDF Freedom Schools site in your area by contacting one of our partner organizations across the country.

In the News

Freedom school raises awareness
July 17, 2011, The Bolivar Commercial

Students defend education spending
July 14, 2011, The Columbus Dispatch

Kids Tell Lawmakers: "Keep Away from Education Funding"
July 13, 2011, Public News Service

 Highlights from the 2010 National Days of Social Action

Last year's CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action provided an extraordinary opportunity to ensure every child a Healthy Start in life and access to affordable, seamless and comprehensive health and mental health coverage. Recent landmark national health reform legislation will give 32 million people in America, including more than 95 percent of all children, access to health coverage previously beyond their reach.

CDF Freedom Schools site leaders, servant leader interns and children were a critical part of this victory. During CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action in 2008 and 2009, more than 12,000 youths across the nation held rallies, marches, Congressional visits, and letter-writing campaigns urging Congress to support health reform for all children. Now it’s time to sign children up for the health coverage for which they are eligible.

The 2010 CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action involved a month-long campaign to enroll children in health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which may have another name in your state, and Children’s Medicaid. Throughout the month of July, CDF Freedom Schools across the country held outreach and enrollment events to link children to CHIP, Medicaid or local health clinics.

To further bring home their messages of the importance of health coverage and to reinforce the focus on reading and literacy inherent in the CDF Freedom Schools program the children preformed skits about health insurance and relating issues surrounding health insurance to the books that they have read this summer.

The students also honored the efforts of local health advocate Tamika Scott, who, since the loss of her son, Devante Johnson—who was unable to get the care he needed because of bureaucratic red tape and mismanaged paperwork surrounding his insurance coverage—has become a committed spokesperson on behalf of all Texas children who need health coverage.

Other enrollment drive activities included:

  • A citywide Building Healthy Communities Campaign organized by 8 CDF Freedom Schools in Baton Rouge that has already achieved 100% enrollment of CDF Freedom Schools scholars and held a comprehensive health and safety fair for everyone from infants to seniors on Saturday, July 17. Services ranged from education about child obesity and dental exams to screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure. Children also performed Harambee! at the opening ceremonies!
  • A “$5 physical drive” at CDF Freedom Schools in Ohio as part of a community campaign to provided blood pressure and diabetes screenings for families as well as to link every child with health coverage and services.

Steps for Holding an Enrollment Drive as part of the CDF Freedom Schools National Days of Social Action (.pdf, 117 KB)