“See a book, grab a book, read a book, aye!!!” “Are you hype? Are you hype?”
Everyday, around 8:30, my ears fill with the sounds of close to 90 children, ages 5-14, singing songs to motivate themselves to achieve and love reading. This summer, and last summer as well, I have worked with Freedom School Partners in Charlotte as a Servant Leader Intern. I teach a culturally-diverse literacy curriculum to my own classroom of 10 scholars, predominantly low-income students of Color. My 12 hour days consist of preparing lesson plans, teaching our reading curriculum, interacting and engaging with my scholars, going on educational experience field trips, leading STEAM activities, and preparing to do it all again. I end nearly every day exhausted, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry about something every day, but I wouldn’t change this job for the world.
Freedom Schools are a national program organized by the Children’s Defense Fund to give low-income students, primarily students of Color, the resources to succeed in their education and to develop their potential. We focus on fighting summer learning loss, which disproportionately affects lower income children, putting them up to two to three months behind in reading every summer. Freedom School Partners evaluates that 89% of our scholars either improve in their reading levels, or maintain their current reading level throughout the Freedom School program. We also focus on developing the social-emotional and leadership skills of our scholars, and providing opportunities that our scholars might not get otherwise, such as seeing plays, going to the Discovery Place, and other cultural immersion opportunities.
My days are filled with laughter, cheers and chants, reading, learning, hugs, drawings, and tears. I tell my scholars everyday that I learn just as much from them as I hope that they learn from me. I’ve learned more about vulnerability, my privilege, and the impact that I can have on the future of my community through their optimism, love, stories, and resilience. Through interacting with these scholars for 30 days during the summer, my life has changed in many ways, not just through my confidence or leadership skills, but I also discovered that this is the path I want to pursue through my life, fighting and working towards educational equity for students of all backgrounds. The work is hard, and I mostly collapse in bed as soon as I get home, but I wouldn’t change my summer for anything.
Written by: Sarah Aldridge