The Impact of Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools™ on Young Future Leaders
July 11, 2022
By Daisha Williams, College Intern
Take it all the way back to the summer of 1964, a year after four Black girls were killed in the bombing of a Birmingham church, when young civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman helped begin the Freedom Summer Project in Mississippi. This program brought together college students across the nation to secure justice, voting rights, provide instruction to Black children on topics that were not discussed in Mississippi schools, and keep these children safe in some of the most makeshift settings. This work was done to show children how to be thinkers, how to be advocates for change, and how to be problem solvers in their own communities. Continue onto 1995, when the first two sites for CDF Freedom Schools were opened, inspired greatly by Freedom Summer, aiming to address the needs of children who were in the most need of high-quality literacy programs during the summer.
What started from humble beginnings as a way to target the most vulnerable in our nation has manifested into a nationwide initiative with over 160,000 scholars (Freedom Schools participants are scholars; not students, not campers, but scholars) who have participated in this program, that now aims to not only provide high-quality literacy opportunities but improve multiple factors of a scholar’s life, including language skills, connecting children to health services, and strengthen families to make differences in their lives and in the lives of those around them. There are 19,000 college students or graduates who have worked as Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) in the program, going through training with over 400 Ella Baker Trainers who guide the SLIs on how to implement the Freedom Schools model. Read the full blog here.