Three Questions is a new Next Stage series. Over the coming months, we will feature social good leaders from across the region who are partnering in new and innovative ways to create big community change.
- Tell us about Freedom School Partners’ proudest accomplishment last year.
Without a doubt, our proudest accomplishment in the last year is offering an in-person Freedom School program to children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg in the summer of 2021. Our ability to offer our program to families who most need and can least afford high quality summer learning opportunities was completely put in jeopardy by the pandemic. The FSP team got really creative and demonstrated incredible resilience and determination in 2020 to develop an alternate distribution model program that enabled us to serve our families, but this program could not replicate the Freedom School experience. In 2021, we secured new site locations (to overcome challenges related to reduced access to CMS facilities), secured a new transportation provider (we offer bus transportation to and from our site locations at no cost to participants) and developed extensive COVID-19 protocols and procedures so we could serve our scholars in person with our traditional program. And we did! And it was AWESOME!!!
We operated 10 Freedom School sites around the community and offered our 6-week summer learning program to 434 children from 118 different schools. We didn’t have to close any of our sites due to COVID exposure or outbreaks during the summer AND our program produced the impact we experienced pre-pandemic. Our average attendance over the course of the program was 73.8% and 87.4% of our scholars gained or maintained in their reading ability. It was a great summer and we hope to return to pre-pandemic service levels in 2022.
- Freedom School Partners is a nonprofit, but it’s mission is also highly applicable to the private sector. Why should companies care about your mission?
The mission of Freedom School Partners is to promote the long-term success of children by preventing summer learning loss through igniting a passion for reading and inspiring a love of learning. We do this by providing a high impact and highly engaging program that serves children and families who lack the access to summer learning and enrichment opportunities. Research shows that summer learning loss is one of the primary drivers of the achievement gap. This gap directly impacts high school graduation rates and ultimately our local economy. So, when our scholars participate in Freedom School summer after summer, they are actively taking steps to impact their own futures and the future of our community.
The books our scholars read as part of our curriculum are filled with culturally responsive and historically relevant stories and also expose them to ideas and opportunities they may never have considered for themselves. At Freedom School, we want children to fall in love with reading and learning and develop the confidence and self-efficacy to define and pursue their dreams. In addition, our program serves as a workforce development opportunity for college students and infuses the local employment pipeline with young people who are passionate about educational equity, social mobility and making a difference in our community.
- How can Freedom School Partners actively support the needs or well-being of employees?
There is so much research and information coming out about the importance of employee engagement as the pandemic begins to wane. We know that values alignment and participation in the community in a meaningful way are directly connected to employee well-being. Freedom School Partners offers employees volunteer opportunities that feed the soul. What we do goes well beyond program effectiveness and metrix. We give companies the opportunity to directly connect and engage with their customers in a localized and specific, place-based way. We give employees the chance to experience impact by connecting with people and witnessing the beauty of humanity. One of our former Board Chairs likes to say that there is no better cup of coffee than a Harambee! experience at Freedom School. I recognize that your readers may not know what that means, but I invite them to reach out to me for an invite and an experience they will not soon forget.