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The CDF Freedom Schools program is based in a pedagogy of emancipation and transformation, that comprises a research-based and multicultural curriculum centered on 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. Our instructional approach has been recognized as a model strategy to effectively and joyfully engage children and young adults around culturally relevant literature, learning, and making a difference in the world.
The CDF Freedom Schools “I Can Make a Difference” theme lets children know that they are not citizens in waiting, but agents of change. Children are empowered to serve and make a difference in themselves, their families, schools, communities and world with hope, education, and action. We train thousands of college students and recent graduates each year as Servant Leader Interns to deliver the CDF Freedom Schools Integrated Reading Curriculum, a dynamic educational methodology that aligns with Common Core State Standards and includes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM education) activities.
Research has shown that the CDF Freedom Schools program is making an impact in the lives of children and families across the country. In 2012, a four-year study of children enrolled at Charlotte CDF Freedom Schools sites conducted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte found that over 90 percent of participating children showed no summer learning loss, and 63 percent showed gains in reading. In 2011, the Harvard Family Research Project released a report called “Year-Round Learning: Linking School, Afterschool, and Summer Learning to Support Student Success.” The CDF Freedom Schools program was one of the 14 innovative national programs highlighted in the report as having “demonstrated success in providing quality learning opportunities for youth.” In 2004, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning honored the CDF signature program with the nation’s first Excellence in Summer Learning Award.
The CDF Freedom Schools program is rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, and the courageous efforts of college aged youth to make a difference. The program was reborn in 1992 under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund as an intergenerational effort to reweave the fabric of families and communities and create a new generation of servant leaders to prepare children for school and for life.