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Freedom Schools fortify, stimulate young scholars

Freedom-Schools-1by Kimberly McGrew and Jennifer Hogan

As students across the city try to find their back-to-school groove, 50 of them will be able to draw upon their summer experiences during the Memphis Urban League's third successful run of Freedom Schools at Klondike Elementary School.

With generous contributions from the Plough Foundation, the program was provided free of charge to 50 scholars. The Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program provides enrichment designed to help children develop a love of reading, increase their self-esteem, and develop a more positive attitude toward learning.

"Freedom Schools is a great opportunity," said Charity Williams, a rising eighth grader. "It enhances my vocabulary and stimulates my mind. I like it more than my regular school."

The six-week program used a research-based model curriculum that is crafted to support children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health.

The Memphis Urban League showcased a guest speaker every morning. Students sang uplifting songs and cheered energetic chants. Freedom Schools jumpstarted one morning with A motivational session called Harambee (Let's come together!), jumpstarted one of the sessions andwas featured by Channel 5's Kym Clark on a segment of segment "Extra Credit."

Freedom-Schools-2Afterwards, the students transitioned to the Integrated Reading Curriculum, discussing books and other reading materials in a seminar group. There were no desks at Freedom Schools; all classrooms were set up with chairs in a circle to stimulate the young scholars to engage in group conversations.

During the afternoon hours on Mondays and Wednesdays, the students participated in Arts and Crafts with Kim Thomas from the Memphis College of Art. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the students learned to move to the rhythm of the beat with Tevita Dumas from Delta Fine Arts.

CDF Freedom Schools are staffed primarily by college-age young adults, who have expressed commitments to making life better for children. The Servant Leader interns played key roles in executing the morning Integrated Reading Curriculum, focusing on being engaging thought provoking.

"I like Freedom Schools because we have fun while we learn new words everyday when we read different books," said Kejuan Johnson, a rising fourth grader.

The Memphis Urban League program made use of guest readers and benefited from its community partners, especially Klondike Elementary School, the United Way of the Mid-South, FedEx, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the North Branch Memphis Public Library, WMC TV5, Rhodes College, and the University of Memphis.

For information about the summer 2013 Freedom Schools program, call the Memphis Urban League at 901-272-2491.

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