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Alcorn State University Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School kicks off

Freedom School balloon

On June 18, Alcorn State University welcomed nearly 60 kids from surrounding communities at its inaugural Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School, a summer enrichment program designed to enhance the literacy skills of scholars between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Every day from 8 a.m. till 3 p.m. during the six-week period, young scholars will be engaged in activities that boost a positive attitude towards reading. A typical day at the program begins with a nutritious breakfast followed by “Harambee!” – a 30-minute high energy activity that brings together all program participants and gives them a charge for the day.

“One of the biggest differences of this program is ‘Harambee’ that means ‘let’s pull together’ in Swahili,” said Gralon Johnson, special assistant to the president at Alcorn and co-executive director of the CDF Freedom School program. “Kids and staff sing motivational songs, cheer and chant, read aloud and share a moment of reflection. This time together gives the participants a chance to celebrate themselves and each other.”

Led by leader interns (trained Alcorn students and graduates), energized scholars proceed in small groups to their Integrated Reading Curriculum sessions during which they engage in reading and theme-based, hands-on activities related to the day’s reading assignment.

“The range of activities ensures that children with diverse experiences, talents and levels of confidence in reading and verbal expression are actively engaged,” stated Alcorn Student Engagement Director Valerie Thompson, Ph.D., co-executive director of the program.

Right before lunch, D.E.A.R. time comes around emphasizing the importance and joy of reading, where scholars and everybody “drop everything and read” silently for 15 minutes.

Afternoon activities also correlate with the Integrated Reading Curriculum, which include arts and crafts, summer science, dance, poetry, choir, nutrition and wellness, financial literacy, drums and rhythm instruments, and theater.

During the last week of the program, a summer finale will be held for parents and friends where students will have a chance to showcase their talents and what they have learned during the enrichment program.

Project Director of the program Dr. Carrie Ford, assistant professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Alcorn, underlined that parents play a vital role in the program being “engaged as site volunteers and participate in weekly workshops on children’s developmental needs, civic responsibility and other topics of interest.”

“My two daughters Sreya, who completed 4th grade and Anupama, who just finished K5, attend this exceptional program,” shared Dr. Ramesh Maddali, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at Alcorn. “We are so excited to hear what they learn.”

“Alcorn once again is serving as an educational epicenter for Southwestern Mississippi,” said Lekecha Booker ’11, accounts services supervisor/automated clearing house coordinator for the Bank of Franklin in Meadville, whose son Delvin participates in the program. “The university’s partnership with CDF gives a great opportunity for the kids and parents from surrounding communities to learn and enrich their lives.”

Pictured: Program participants releasing balloons as a part of their afternoon activity. Each balloon has a piece of paper on which the kids’ wrote what they wish to learn and accomplish during the program.