GCS Set to Open First Freedom School This Summer

For 60 Guilford County Schools’ students, school will take on a new meaning this summer when they become part of the first Guilford County Schools (GCS) Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School.

Held on the campus of Greensboro College from July 8 to August 16, the six-week summer enrichment program will focus on literacy, developing students’ self-esteem and leadership and generating more positive attitudes toward learning. The camp will host students in kindergarten through eighth grade who are in transition and often do not have stable housing.

In addition to Greensboro College providing in-kind donations, the program will also be supported by Greensboro’s McAlister Foundation.

“We are so excited to introduce the students to the Freedom School,” said Gwen Willis, the district’s chief student services officer. “The program provides them a safe place to learn and enhances their love for reading, while also giving them new experiences and leadership skills.”

College-aged students and young adults are trained as servant leader interns, who play a key role in the school. Several Greensboro College students and GCS rookie teachers will serve as these servant leaders, joining two executive directors, a project director and a site coordinator.

“Nothing is more important in early childhood education than learning to read,” says Lawrence D. Czarda, Ph.D., president of Greensboro College and a former school-board chairman in Virginia. “Greensboro College is delighted to participate in this crucial effort to bolster the learning of Guilford County students and give them a leg up on success in school and in life.”

The CDF Freedom School concept is one that is modeled across the country and provides a unique summer enrichment program that creates a safe, nurturing educational environment. Each morning begins with 30 minutes of energetic dancing, motivational cheering and a story read by a special guest in a lively storytelling fashion. This morning ritual, called Harambee, is Swahili for “let’s pull together.” Local elected officials, community leaders and volunteers will serve as community readers each morning of the program.

Students will continue reading using an Integrated Reading Curriculum followed by an afternoon of enrichment activities and field trips. Each day will include D.E.A.R., or drop everything and read. At the end of each week, each student will receive the book assigned for that week to keep as their own, and at the conclusion of the program, each student will add six new books to their personal library.

Parent and family involvement is another important aspect of the Freedom School. Parents are invited to join their students each week to share experiences and volunteer during their day. Parents will also be invited to attend the program’s finale that will showcase what each student learned during the program.

The Freedom School is included in Guilford County Schools’ 2016 Strategic Plan as a strategy to help reduce summer reading loss.