This time of the year, Freedom School Partners is usually gearing up for its annual Freedom School summer enrichment program to help students avoid summer learning loss.

But this summer, its programming structure will look a little different to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“Because of COVID-19, we knew that we were not going to be able to operate traditionally,” said Glenda Bernhardt, Freedom School Partners chief executive officer. “We are learning to be incredibly creative and flexible while maintaining our commitment to be in these communities.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization implemented the 2020 Reading and Enrichment for Scholars Plus Other Need Supplies and Essentials (R.E.S.P.O.N.S.E.) program that will be held from June 29 to July 31.

The program will be conducted at multiple pop-up site locations across Charlotte. Student curriculum will consist of reading, math, music and take-home resources for children and their families.

“We will be handing out books because a big part of our mission is helping our scholars build their home libraries, Bernhardt said. “We are also developing enrichment activity kits. Our team and volunteers are going to be working to put together and package about 10,000 enrichment activity kits.”

The Freedom School team will also distribute snacks, food bags for nutritional support over the weekend and resources for needs such as COVID-19 relief, eviction prevention and mental health support.

“We support our families and our scholars in all of their needs,” Bernhardt said. “We fortunately have some wonderful partners and volunteers who help us with collecting a variety of different types of supplies so that we can get those into families’ hands.”

To encourage at-home learning, the R.E.S.P.O.N.S.E. program will have a virtual learning component. From read-aloud YouTube videos to online enrichment activities, students will have a variety of ways to deepen their learning.

“So they might get a book or activity on site with us and then they can go online to do more and learn more,” said Bernhardt.

With great participation comes an incentive. Students will have the opportunity to win prizes including a bike.

“We’re really trying to think about how we can creatively encourage scholars to participate and potentially have access to winning some stuff as an extra bonus,” Bernhardt said.

Hopefully that inspires a love of reading and inspires a love of learning

Freedom School Partners is a nonprofit organization that helps students ignite their passion for reading and learning by facilitating Freedom School, a six-week summer program for students in grades K – 12.

Last year, the organization served over 1,300 students in the summer program.

While the stay-at-home order has affected its normal operations, Freedom School Partners is staying true to its mission.

That mission is to bridge the gap between lower and higher income children.

“It is true that unfortunately in our community not all children have access to the same resources,” said Bernhardt. “Freedom School Partners was really founded on a commitment that all children deserve access to every opportunity in this life. We focus specifically on literacy, but literacy and education really lay the pathway for that possibility.”

They all deserve every ability to learn and grow and thrive

At the beginning and end of each Freedom School summer session, students complete a reading assessment. To date, more than 85% have gained or maintained their reading level after program completion.

The organization has a goal to serve 1,000 children this summer through its R.E.S.P.O.N.S.E. program and so far, 500 children have pre-registered.

To learn more and register for the R.E.S.P.O.N.S.E. program, click here. Interested students can also register on-site at a program location but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.