Programs and Campaigns

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Freedom Schools® Program

The CDF Freedom Schools® program seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world today. By providing summer and after-school reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books, the CDF Freedom Schools program plays a much needed role in helping to curb summer learning loss and close achievement gaps – and is a key part of CDF’s work to ensure a level playing field for all children. In partnership with local congregations, schools, colleges and universities, community organizations, and secure juvenile justice facilities the CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes toward learning, increases self-esteem and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities.

Since 1995, more than 125,000 preK-12 children have had a CDF Freedom Schools experience and more than 15,000 college students and recent graduates have been trained by CDF to deliver this empowering model.

The CDF Freedom Schools model incorporates the totality of the Children's Defense Fund's mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference. Site coordinators and project directors are also trained by CDF to provide supervision and administrative oversight.

The program provides an exciting Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) including carefully chosen developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant books. The model curriculum supports children and families around five essential components.

How Does the Program Work?

CDF Freedom Schools are implemented in partnership with community based organizations, places of worship, schools, colleges and universities. Each program site is led by a Project Director, Site Director, and college-aged Servant Leader Interns all trained by CDF to deliver the integrated reading curriculum (IRC) and to provide supervision and administrative oversight. This intergenerational leadership team comes together to provide a safe and restorative learning space where children are inspired to become lifelong learners and motivated to make a difference in their community. 

Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline: A Community Approach

Since 2011, CDF-Texas has partnered with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department to implement the CDF Freedom Schools model for incarcerated youth in its secured residential and detention facilities. After the first six weeks, the program's impact was astonishing. There was a dramatic decrease in the number of behavioral incidents reported, with more youths enthusiastic about being productive and making positive changes.

Witness the Program in Action!

The 2015 Summer session operates: June 15 - July 24, 2014

These are some of our favorite CDF Freedom Schools photos on Facebook and Flickr.