The Story of Dwayne Crompton and Kansas City CDF Freedom Schools®
Dwayne Crompton, founder of Kansas City CDF Freedom Schools®, has harnessed his background in elementary education to provide reading support for children in his community. Throughout the years, the program has achieved great success improving students’ reading level each summer.
For 23 years, the Kansas City CDF Freedom Schools program assessed students’ reading skills each year and utilized the carefully designed CDF Freedom Schools curriculum to target areas in need of improvement. Students did not simply avoid summer learning loss, which commonly occurs without summer instruction, but actually made strides forward in reading levels. The program was wildly successful—and became wildly popular.
“Once word got out, we had a waiting list,” said Crompton. “Freedom Schools children came from all over the community.”
While CDF Freedom Schools became an integral part of the community, it only came to Kansas City through a stroke of luck. When Crompton, a longtime member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, attended a CDF Freedom Schools conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, he simply wanted to see if the program would serve Kansas City well. At the conference, he ran into a friend who worked at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. With this friend’s invaluable help, Crompton and the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church were able to demonstrate how impactful the program could be in Kansas City, and the Kauffman Foundation immediately funded the project. This chance encounter kick-started what became a 23-year program. Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, a major partner in the collaboration, housed the first program and has served as executive headquarters. Together, this partnership of Mt. Pleasant, the Children’s Defense Fund, and the Kauffman Foundation has achieved amazing results.
Throughout his time running a CDF Freedom School, Crompton has had the opportunity to interact with many members of his community from all different walks of life. Throughout his time building the Kansas City program, scholars, interns, program leaders, and the community interacted and worked to support each other. Members of local churches even cooked hot meals for the children in the program, who would otherwise have received bagged lunches.
When you ask Crompton the most important thing he learned, he tells you one simple lesson: Don’t be judgmental of those you serve.
“We need to ask them and not always tell them what they need and not be judgmental and critical of them,” said Crompton. “[Through Freedom Schools], I’ve gained a better understanding of who I work with and encounter.”
He has also had the opportunity to see students grow as a result of the program. He is especially inspired when he sees scholars who attend CDF Freedom Schools go on to become teachers themselves.
“To see them in their classrooms utilizing Freedom School principles gets me kind of excited,” said Crompton. “We’re impacting the community outside those six weeks.”
Even now, alumni of the program continue to help the program grow and impact students. While the program has been on hiatus in recent years due to health issues for Crompton, he believes these alumni will bring the program back.
“Young people have put together a committee to revitalize [the program] and create an alumni reunion,” said Crompton. “That says a lot about what they experienced.”
Currently, the program has over 1,500 alumni who could one day take charge. Crompton credits this to the strength of the intergenerational impact of CDF Freedom Schools.
Crompton thoroughly believes that there will be a future for the CDF Freedom Schools movement in Kansas City, because the community will keep the program alive. In the hands of the next generation of city leaders, the future looks bright for Kansas City kids.