Focus: HOPE Launches Second Year of HOPE Village CDF Freedom Schools

Another summer is upon us and that means another year of HOPE Village CDF Freedom Schools. On Monday, July 10th, we welcomed elementary students for the second summer of the HOPE Village Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program; Focus: HOPE’s free 6-week summer education program for students in grades K-5. We have an expanded program this year with two locations in HOPE Village—Focus: HOPE’s Center for Children and a new site at Joy Preparatory Academy.

Rooted in the American Civil Rights Movement, the national CDF Freedom Schools model seeks to ensure every child a healthy start, head start, fair start and a morally righteous start to their life through education and uplift. In an effort to combat summer learning loss, which disproportionately affects low-income children, CDF Freedom Schools provide an exciting learning curriculum in a summer camp-like setting to keep our scholars engaged.

The CDF Freedom Schools program begins each morning with Harambee, a Swahili word meaning, “let’s pull together.” Harambee calls for everyone in the room, including scholars, staff, parents and community members, to celebrate themselves and each other in song. The morning curriculum focuses heavily on reading comprehension, using multicultural books and culturally relevant activities. The afternoons mix in creative activities with STEM related subjects to make it fun for our scholars. Along with learning, scholars will be served nutritious meals and snacks each day and will attend weekly fieldtrips. Focus: HOPE also offers family engagement sessions twice a week for the parents and families of our students.

“It truly takes a village to raise a child,” said Brittney Robinson, Family Engagement Coordinator for the HOPE Village CDF Freedom Schools program and former Detroit resident. “As a community, it is our job to make sure our scholars have the tools and resources they need in life to be successful and this is exactly what CDF Freedom Schools program does.”

A part of that village is our Servant Leader interns, the classroom instructors who work most closely with students, are college students or recent college graduates who are committed to making life better for children. Their preparation included a rigorous week of training at CDF’s Ella Baker Child Policy Institute in Knoxville, Tennessee. The team, led by Dr. Stephanie Moore, also includes AmeriCorps VISTA and VISTA Summer Associates, Grow Detroit Young Talent youth interns, Site Coordinators, and a Change Agent Intern from the Center for Social Impact at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. We are excited to see what we can accomplish with the children this summer!

“I first got involved with the CDF Freedom Schools® program as an intern in the National Office in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 2012. Since then, I have been in love with this program and learning model,” said Paige Watkins, Site Coordinator for the HOPE Village CDF Freedom Schools’ new site at Joy Preparatory Academy . “I have worked as a volunteer at CDF National Training and as a Servant Leader Intern for the past five years. It’s especially special for me because as a high school student, I participated in the beginning years of the Excel Photography Program here at Focus: HOPE. It feels natural to be back on this campus working in the HOPE Village community.”

Thanks again to all of our supporters, donors, scholars and parents. We appreciate the opportunity you have given us to make a difference!

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