By Stacy M. Brown
Black Press USA
The Children’s Defense Fund has always lived by the motto that children are the future.
As young people of color are the majority of youth in America, the nonprofit organization is ramping up its Freedom Schools program.
Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), said the schools incorporate “the totality of CDF’s mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves and in their families, schools, communities, country, and the world with hope, education, and action.”
Dr. Wilson noted that students in the program are known as scholars.
“By providing K-12 scholars with rich, culturally relevant pedagogy and high-quality books that deepen scholars’ understanding of themselves and all they have in common with others in a multiracial, multicultural democratic society, CDF Freedom Schools programs further empowers scholars to believe in their ability and responsibility to make a difference while instilling in them a love of reading to help them avoid summer learning loss,” Dr. Wilson remarked during a live appearance on the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s morning breaking news program, “Let It Be Known.”
Recent Freedom Schools’ surveys found that 65 percent of scholars liked to read, while 81 percent enjoyed talking about what they read.
Approximately 86 percent reported they read many different kinds of books, 100 percent reported wanting to go to college, 98 percent reported they could achieve their goals, and 89 percent said they believed they could make a difference.
The CDF outlined the following behavioral benchmarks:
- Seventy-seven percent of scholars reported they were willing to listen to different opinions.
- Sixty-eight percent of scholars said standing up for what they think is fair.
- Sixty-three percent of scholars said that they could solve problems without yelling at others.
- Sixty-eight percent of scholars said that they know how to solve arguments without fighting.
- Seventy-nine percent of scholars said learning how to cooperate to solve problems.
“Freedom Schools are not just culturally responsive, but we invest in young people – developing their sense of self-agency that they can make a difference in their home, their community and in the world,” expressed Dr. Wilson, who is expected to discuss Freedom Schools further, and the most recent CDF State of America’s Children 2021, during the NNPA’s annual summer convention in June.
Registration for the convention is free, and those interested can sign up at www.virtualnnpa2021.com.
For the summer Freedom Schools program, CDF officials said they utilized the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Reading Inventory to measure scholars’ reading achievement.
They said 76.7 percent of scholars did not experience summer learning loss. While currently at a 60 percent parent participation rate, CDF is striving to increase this number by soliciting different workshop topic ideas that resonate with the community’s needs.
“It’s absolutely critical that we are there for our children,” Dr. Wilson insisted. “We can’t fall into a trap. I had a mentor who heard me say that I work hard, so my sons don’t have to.
“He told me that everything I had said was good except for the last part. He said, ‘the part about you work so hard, so they don’t have to.
“Don’t set them up for failure like that because the reality is that you pushed through the struggle as far as you could, so you prepare them for the struggle.’”