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2024 Childrens Defense Fund Summer Freedom Schools of JPS Filled with Reading, Dancing and Cheers

July 8, 2024 

To educate a child is an incredible feat, but the method an educator uses to convey simple concepts is what sets them apart. This is what makes the 2024 Children’s Defense Fund Summer Freedom Schools of Ӱ Public Schools so unique – scholars learn the wonder of reading through Harambee, which means “all pull together” in Swahili.
It consists of five components - reading aloud, motivational songs, cheers/chants, recognition/announcements and a moment of silence - which “kick-starts” a positive attitude at the onset of each day. Teachers encourage students to dance to promote happiness and shake off negative emotions.
“I hope they know, first, that they’re cared for and, two, that they can make a difference,” said CDF Program National Director, Dr. Kristal Moore Clemons.
The four-week-long, grant-funded specialty camp ran throughout the month of June 2024 and involved select scholars across JPS who signed up for the culturally responsive summer reading program.

Freedom Schools

Photo Courtesy of Freedom Schools

The program has its origins in the , which brought college students from around the country to Mississippi to secure justice and voting rights for Black citizens. These early Freedom Schools aimed at keeping Black children and young people safe and giving them rich educational experiences that were not offered in Mississippi’s public schools. 

During the month of June, Freedom School scholars participated in all kinds of activities that focus on high-quality academic and character-building enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational servant leadership development, nutrition, health, and mental health. 
On June 19, outside the Two Mississippi Museums, scholars took part in the National Day of Social Action (NDSA) Project to denounce book banning and campaigns that limit book access at the city, state, and national level. The rally called for proactive awareness and actions to be taken against book banning. JPS scholars waved signs and beat drums while chanting about the freedom in reading and the awe they’ve discovered in books with characters who look like them.

2024 Children’s Defense Fund Summer Freedom Schools of JPS Filled with Reading, Dancing and Cheers

"Every year, Freedom School sites across the country participate in a National Day of Social Action," said Servant Leader Intern, Sydney Rushing. " This year’s NDSA is to bring awareness to an issue that’s far too common. No book should be banned because everyone deserves the right to read." 
On June 20, Freedom School parents were treated to therapeutic massages compliments of the Holmes Country Massage Therapy School. Moms and dads were able to learn about the program while witnessing their child’s daily Harambee celebration.
Freedom Schools celebrated the finale of the program on Friday, June 28, before other scholars, parents and teachers. Dressed in cowboy hats, boots and flannel, the young readers reflect on what they learned to make a difference in themselves as well as their families, schools, communities, country, and world with hope, education, and action.

Freedom Schools

“I read because I want to get into a cool college,” 6-year-old Christopher Samuels told the media. “I love Freedom Schools because we’ve read so many fun books."

Freedom Schools

“It’s important for kids to see reflections of themselves," said Site Coordinator, Christina Ashford. "Each week, our kids get to take home the book they’re reading for our class, free of charge. We read books about cornrows, cityscapes, and a grandpa who couldn’t vote because he didn’t know how to read. And, for them to be able to read these books and take them home to share with their families is powerful.”

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