I have often said that CDF Freedom Schools® is the heart and soul of our work at Children’s Defense Fund. The program teaches more than 16,000 young scholars across the country how to tap into their own power and that of their communities in order to make meaningful change. When they do so, they quickly come to understand that anything is possible.
That fact proved evident in what I saw around the country during our July 19 National Day of Social Action (NDSA).
At the Minnesota state capitol building in St. Paul, more than 1,600 young people marched against gun violence on their streets. Meanwhile, in East Cleveland, Ohio, scholars wrote lawmakers letters about the impact guns have made on their communities. Those letters were later put on display in the Ohio statehouse in Columbus.
CDF Freedom Schools training equipped our scholars with the civic engagement and social action skills needed to make them comfortable to act and make a powerful, positive impact for future generations.
One scholar, Martina Tatidoum, 14, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, said she decided to participate in an NDSA event because she feels unsafe in her community and wants things there to change.
“I just want to see action,” she said. “I just want to see something being done. I don’t want to speak and then nobody is doing [anything] about it.”
Another scholar, Montae Powell, 11, of San Francisco, said it was incumbent on other young people to join in and fight for change in their communities too.
“If it’s [something] serious or happening in the neighborhood or around them, I feel like they should express themselves and really talk to grown-ups,” he said.
As you can see, our scholars recognize their power to create a better world. And their desire to fight for positive change may be so powerful that it spreads to and influences their friends to do the same.
There is no doubt of the CDF Freedom Schools program’s power to build community so all young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy. I am immensely grateful to our many CDF Freedom Schools sites’ executive directors, program directors, site coordinators, Ella Baker Trainers, Servant Leader Interns, and extraordinary staff who pour their hearts into creating conditions for all children to thrive.