The nationwide Childrens Defense Fund is the parent organization and chooses 80 to 90 book titles that are taught to the children, based around themed weeks. Working on basic skills like comprehension and recognition, executive director Amy Brooks-Young said each class has about 10 scholars with one leader, aka a college intern.
Everything is introduced with a song or chant, said Brittany Johnson, University of Central Oklahoma education senior. Sometimes we sing Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder-style.
A Freedom School intern for three years, she said what shes learned will help her when she graduates.
You dont get this type of training until youre about to graduate, Johnson said.
Intern Amre Ford said training helped him get ready to teach children and impact their lives.
Be prepared to sing all day long, Ford said about training. There was never really dead time, and its very high-energy.
Thats energy they bring as they take scholars by the hands to dance, clap and sing. The atmosphere isnt the only positive thing, said Brooks-Young.
There are a lot of positive reads, because theyre about if you want to make a change in your life, you have to do that for yourself, she said. You cant expect other people to just do it for you.
Starting the day at 8 a.m., the kids stay until 3 p.m., attending classes in the morning and physical exercises like swimming, basketball or dance in the afternoon. Once a week, the children have a field lesson.
Thats what you want the kids to aspire to be: a college student.
A field trip is when you truly are going and you just see stuff. You run past the possums or kangaroos or whales, Brooks-Young said. A field lesson is when you actually take time. Theres certain learning objectives that you want to accomplish; you take time to figure out what youre doing and what youre learning about.
For example, the field lesson to the zoo covers camouflage and a chance to practice their new skills.
Brooks-Young said Freedom School is free and accepts 50 scholars each year.
Its a safe place to go. It helps the kid not have the summer slide, because I will tell you as a teacher, after state testing, their little brains are just exhausted, she said. They love the college kids because theyre that bridge between kid and teacher theyre fun and interesting and from the community.
Thats what you want the kids to aspire to be: a college student. And for many of them, thats not necessarily what they see at home.