Five Essential Components of CDF Freedom Schools® Program

The CDF Freedom Schools® program model curriculum supports children and families around five essential components.

High-Quality Academic Enrichment

At CDF Freedom Schools programs, children are engaged in activities that nurture their minds, bodies, and spirits. Children, parents, and staff are introduced to a superb collection of books that reflect their own images and reinforce the CDF Freedom Schools theme I Can Make a Difference.  This collection of books reflect a wide variety of cultures and experience and is part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) in which books, activities, field trips, and games all relate to and reinforce each other. Servant leader interns, college students and recent graduates trained by CDF, use the IRC to teach children conflict resolution and critical thinking skills, engage children in community service and social action projects, encourage children to participate in art and athletic activities, and help children to develop a program finale in which every child is given the chance to shine.

Parent and Family Involvement

Parents and family members are the most important partners in their children’s education. The CDF Freedom Schools program offers parents and family members the support and skills they need to help their children succeed.  Caregivers are required to demonstrate their commitment to the program and to their children’s education and development by becoming actively involved in the daily CDF Freedom Schools activities. Parents, family members and community members are invited to serve as read aloud guests during Harambee; assist in the classroom, on the playground and during meals; plan and chaperone field trips; and support the children's social action and community service projects. Family members also participate in weekly workshops where they learn about the educational and social development of children and gain the necessary skills to empower themselves and their families to succeed.

Social Action and Civic Engagement

The social action and civic engagement component of the CDF Freedom Schools model teaches youth to engage in community service and social justice advocacy. 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.

Each year, thousands of children and teens from CDF Freedom Schools sites nationwide participate in CDF Freedom Schools National Day of Social Action. Participants take part in a variety of actions including visiting and writing letters to elected officials, joining together for marches and rallies and other public education  activities. Children learn that they are not citizens in waiting but can make a difference right now.

Intergenerational Servant Leadership Development

The CDF Freedom Schools® program is a servant leadership incubator for two generations – the children served and the college students and recent graduates who teach and serve them. Training coordinated by the CDF Freedom Schools national office prepares the young adults to provide an enriching experience for the children they serve. The Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute promotes principles of servant leadership by fostering an understanding of the connection between effective programs and public policy, and the importance of community development, political advocacy, and coalition building.  The strong ethic of service is evident across generations, as community leaders support these servant leaders while they teach and mentor the younger children.

Nutrition, Health and Mental Health

All local CDF Freedom Schools programs are required to provide two nutritious meals and a snack each day the program is in operation.  These meals must meet USDA nutrition standards.  CDF Freedom Schools programs serving distressed children and families are encouraged to incorporate therapeutic interventions and health and mental health services.  The Ella Baker Child Policy and Training Institute promotes principles of personal responsibility and the development of healthy lifestyle choices.