On June 20th, we opened the doors of our first-ever, HOPE Village Freedom School program to 50 early elementary students. The program takes place at our Center for Children, 1550 Oakman Blvd and provides an exciting, new, research-based academic enrichment approach for children living in our HOPE Village. Thank you to everyone who helped make this program come to life, we could not have done so without your generous support.
The Freedom School is part of our HOPE Village Initiative—a long-term partnership of ours, designed to radically change the odds of success for children and families in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding Focus: HOPE's campus. Our HOPE Village Initiative aims to ensure that, by 2031, 100 percent of residents living in HOPE Village will be educationally well prepared, economically self-sufficient, and living in a safe and supportive environment. To make certain of our success, we aim to build a network of HOPE Village Freedom School sites that will provide summer and after-school programming for more than 300, K-12 children each year.
Our HOPE Village Freedom School starts each day with Harambee, a Swahili word meaning, "let's pull together." This ceremony provides a high energy start to each day and pulls our community together to cheer, chant, dance and sing positive messages about reading and self-worth. Guests are always welcome at Harambee, which takes place each weekday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at Focus: HOPE's Center for Children, 1550 Oakman Blvd, from now until August 5.
A $10,000 Youth Leadership grant from The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM), a partnership with the University of Michigan and support from E.A. Baergen, Cornell University, The Skillman Foundation, Children's Defense Fund, U.A.W. Local 2280 and more made it possible for Focus: HOPE to bring the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools® program to HOPE Village.
CFSEM is a full-service philanthropic organization leading the way to positive change in our region. As a permanent community endowment built by gifts from thousands of individuals and organizations, the Foundation supports a wide variety of activities benefitting education, arts and culture, health, human services, community development and civic affairs. Since its inception, the Foundation has distributed nearly $843 million through more than 57,000 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston counties. For more information, visit www.cfsem.org.
CDF Freedom Schools® is a national movement that served over 12,000 children across the country in the summer of 2015. Participants in the program increased their reading ability by an average of 10 months, nearly a full grade level, over the course of the six-week program.
"This is an impressive figure for a program that lasts less than two months, particularly when contrasted with the summer reading loss that frequently occurs in children from low-income homes," said Dr. Nell K. Duke, Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Michigan. "It is exciting to see such an educational and engaging use of summer time in communities where access to high quality summer enrichment activities may be limited."
The CDF Freedom Schools® program utilizes an engaging and culturally relevant literacy curriculum that is led by inspiring young Servant Leader Interns, all residents of Detroit who were selected through a rigorous application process and trained by CDF. Students also participate in diverse STEM and arts activities, as well as weekly field trips that expose them to new places and ideas.
"The CDF Freedom Schools® has the power to transform communities," said Dr. Stephanie Moore, Project Lead for the HOPE Village Freedom School. "The program affirms students' identities and empowers them to make a difference in their community, as well as cultivating a network of positive supports. Through their experiences with CDF Freedom Schools®, Servant Leader Interns are more likely to pursue careers as educators and families gain community and resources through weekly engagement events."
Claricha Evans, a member of the Children's Defense Fund's national training staff and a Detroit resident, serves as Project Director for our HOPE Village Freedom School. "I started my journey with CDF Freedom Schools® as a Servant Leader Intern in 2011 and it changed my life," she said. "I was excited when I heard Focus: HOPE was having a site because I remember coming to Focus: HOPE to receive food monthly with my granny. My granny passed away at the beginning of April, so this year is especially significant as I honor her by working on the other side of the service table."