Philippa Smithey

The CDF Freedom Schools® program seeks to build strong, literate and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world today. The CDF Freedom Schools program is proudly rooted in the American Civil Rights Movement and the courageous efforts of college age youth to make a difference. Following the first use of freedom schools during the "Mississippi Freedom Summer Project" of 1964, the program was reborn under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund's Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC®) campaign. The goal was to advance a transforming vision of education for all children!

Given this rich history, it is a pleasure to welcome to Dr. Smithey into this heritage as the next Director. Dr. Philippa N. Smithey is a graduate of Howard University (B.A. and M.A.) and American University (Ph.D.) with a forty-year history of work reflecting her lifelong commitment to education, political participation and social justice. Dr. Smithey has been a staunch supporter of grassroots efforts to close the minority achievement gap and increase college access for minority youth, especially those who are the first in their families to attend college.

Dr. Smithey joined the Children’s Defense Fund in December 2015 as a Senior Education Grants Specialist in Development. In that capacity, Dr. Smithey identified and secured public funding to support CDF Freedom Schools programs, monitored grant-funded programs and assisted in various research and writing assignments associated with CDF Freedom Schools.  Dr. Smithey retired from the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in 2016, after 12 years of service as its grants specialist, and held similar positions with the District of Columbia Public Schools and the Alexandria City Public Schools.  Furthermore, Dr. Smithey’s work history includes seven years of fulltime and adjunct teaching at several universities—Howard University, American University, Tuskegee University, and Southeastern University. Dr. Smithey also lived and worked in Africa and Central America as a U.S. diplomat and as the administrative manager of a World Bank-funded construction project in Nigeria.

Dr. Smithey will join a tremendously dedicated team which has grown over the past year.  The following team members joined CDF Freedom Schools in 2017:

Chloe Levin joined CDF Freedom Schools on September 5th as Program Outreach and Engagement Associate. Some of you will remember Chloe as an Intern with CDF Freedom Schools in 2016. Chloe also served as Youth and Family Services Intern at the YMCA, Camp STAR Summer Treatment Program Art Counselor and Intern at the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. Chloe received her Undergrad degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Erica Fields joined CDF Freedoms Schools in October 2017 as Data and Systems Manager. Prior to joining CDF, Erica served as an Analyst with the Supply Chain Management Group; a Teaching/Research Assistant for the Dept. of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University; and a Graduate Assistant for Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Summer Institute. Erica holds a Dual Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Applied Mathematical Science from University of Georgia and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Spelman College.

Tara McCoy rejoined CDF Freedom Schools in October 2017 as Director of Program and Training Initiatives. Tara previously served as the CDF Freedom Schools’ National Office Program Assistant from May 2006 – August 2007. Between 2008 and 2017, Tara continued to work with the Freedom Schools team as a Consultant and assisted in the design of the training curriculum. She was also a member of the Curriculum Committee as well as an Ella Baker Trainer. More recently, Tara served as Program Director at Philadelphia READS before being promoted to Executive Director. Of her many accomplishments, Tara received the Philadelphia 76ers Hero Among Us Award in 2015. Tara holds a Master of Education from Regent University and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Temple University. Tara also speaks, reads and writes Spanish fluently. Tara works remotely from Philadelphia, PA.

Of course, this team joins are long-standing CDF Freedom Schools team members:  Janet Canada, Robin Sally, Yoonjung Park, Rubystine Bridges, Mary Fennell, and Shaquite Pegues!   The bridge between our history of quality work and service and the infusion of new team members will position us for future progress. 

This year has started off with great leaps and bounds that will foster a renewed energy for the program and the children we serve.  I know you will all do your best to welcome and support Dr. Smithey and her team!