Literacy skills, character strengths and a community that believes in success. Those are the three fundamental components behind the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Program, a summer literacy initiative with a focus on children who need, but cannot afford summer learning opportunities.
In Charlotte, N.C., the local organization Freedom Schools Partners works with a number of organizations to provide Freedom Schools across the city. C.N. Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church is one of nearly 20 churches and organizations participating, and is the only African American Presbyterian church involved in the program.
“This is a six-week literacy based program targeted for students who attend public schools in Charlotte and have been identified as low performing and at-risk students in their schools,” said Doris Boyd, ruling elder at C.N. Jenkins. “The church serves a diversified population of 45-50 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.”
Each summer, C.N. Jenkins recruits approximately 75 volunteers for Freedom Schools. The teacher/student ratio is 1:10 with five classrooms. College students with a passion and commitment to help children are employed as interns and teachers. Each intern undergoes 90 hours of training on curriculum delivery, classroom management and youth development before they step into a class.
Parents are also encouraged to be a part of the program through workshops and volunteer opportunities. Boyd said church members support the program through the giving of their time, talents and treasures. Members of various organizations also prepare and serve a hot breakfast weekly.
“Students are fed breakfast, lunch and a snack. Also, members volunteer as chaperones for field trips to local museums, pools, theaters and parks,” added Boyd. “Guests from the community come to read aloud to the students daily, and activity leaders share skills such as a hobby or motivational speech. Members also assist with parent meetings by welcoming parents as well as preparing and serving dinner.”
The church, like other Freedom School Partners, also provides transportation for the students to and from the program.
“The six-week Freedom School program prevents students from being a victim of summer learning loss,” said Boyd. “It is magical. It works and is contagious.”
The University of North Carolina-Charlotte conducted research on the Freedom School Program and found that a majority of participating students improve their ability to read during the summer months, while students who do not participate tend to lose ground. Last year, more than 1,200 students participated in the program across Charlotte.
The “Educate a Child, Transform the World” campaign is a joint effort of Presbyterian World Mission and Compassion, Peace and Justice. By joining with its partners throughout the US and the world, the PC(USA) has set a goal of providing quality education for 1 million children by the year 2020.
Donate to the national campaign to help provide early childhood education and decrease dropout rates.
Donate to the international campaign to address the shortage of well-trained teachers and to provide infrastructure, learning resources, access, safety, and security at schools.