The Baylor Freedom Schools program is a partnership between Baylor School of Education, Waco ISD and Transformation Waco, Prosper Waco, and the City of Waco. Freedom Schools is a seven-week summer literacy enrichment program founded by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). Social action, character building, and STEAM activities are also built into the program so children engage in an interactive, meaningful curriculum. Throughout the program, children are exposed to culturally relevant books and meet with community guests to learn how to be agents of change in their local areas. The main theme of Freedom Schools is “I Can Make a Difference in Myself, My Family, My Community, My Country, and My World with Hope, Action and Education”.
In 2017, the founding year of Baylor Freedom Schools, the program served 50 students at Cesar Chavez Middle School, experiencing tremendous success. A large majority of middle school scholars (9 percent) maintained or increased their reading abilities, significantly reducing summer learning loss. Last year, Freedom Schools worked with 70 middle school scholars at Indian Spring Middle School and 100 percent of students maintained or increased their reading abilities.
In 2019, Baylor Freedom Schools is partnering with the Transformation Zone (in-district charters with Waco ISD) at both Indian Spring Middle School (35 scholars) and JH Hines Elementary School (65 scholars) to provide quality literacy enrichment programming from June 12 – July 26. This program is completely free to students and includes field trips, special guests, and meals.
Perhaps the most popular aspect of Freedom Schools is the unforgettable morning experience known as Harambee! The Swahili term meaning “let’s pull together” allows the group to collectively gather in understanding our purpose and goals for the day. During Harambee, students and leaders sing motivational songs, give announcements, and do cheers before the students enter their classrooms. Freedom Schools also hosts a daily Guest Reader, who will read a short children’s book to the students and entertain a few questions.
In addition to a offering a service for children in the community, the program provides an opportunity for pre-service teachers enrolled in Baylor School of Education to work as Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) and serve children from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
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