I had the good fortune to start my day at the Omega Baptist Church in Dayton with a group of young scholars and their 20-something mentors who were leading Harambee. Harambee means ???pull together??? in Swahili. (See here for an explanation.) It was inspiring to see 60 young scholars getting ready for a day of learning, inspiration, and activities as part of the Children's Defense Fund's Freedom School.
I spoke with some of the scholars ??? ranging in ages from 5 to 13 ??? who came from across the Dayton area and its schools. Some were Dayton Public School students, some were from area charter schools, and others were from local parochial schools. All seemed to be enjoying this summer learning program, and the families involved felt fortunate to have their kids in the program. Two years ago there were more than 200 children in Freedom Schools summer program in Dayton, yet this year there were only 60 spots available because of state funding cuts and fewer philanthropic dollars.
The Freedom School is a 30-day program that runs over the summer from 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM. I asked one of the program leaders if they had data showing the impact of the program on academic achievement. She admitted this is something they wanted to try to measure, but simply didn't have the resources to do it this year. She also made clear that if the kids weren't in the Freedom School they'd most likely be at home watching television bored out of their minds and losing learning opportunities.
The young scholars I saw this morning were anything but bored. They were excited to pull together and to spend time with young adults ??? college students or recent college graduates ??? who obviously cared deeply for their young charges, and were working hard during the dog days of summer to provide a stimulating and rich learning environment for the kids. It was a good way to start the day.