- Unitarian Universalism Connection
Nowhere is the shadow of racism longer in American than when it comes to educational disparities. With program support from the national Children’s Defense Fund, modern-day Freedom Schools—six-week summer learning programs—have spread across the country and now exist in 107 cities in 28 states. This research-based model has been proven through rigorous research to improve literacy skills, build character and engage parents. Last year, All Souls hosted the only CDF Freedom School in the state of Indiana. With your help, we will do so again. Thanks to our donors last year, 83% of our scholars experienced no summer-learning loss or gained literacy skills (normally their peers would lose 2-3 months of reading ability.) Thank you for helping us mitigate the educational disparity gap that keeps so many of our children behind.
There have been three waves of “Freedom Schools” in American history, and Unitarian Universalists have been part of all three. Northern whites, often women, went to the South soon after emancipation to teach formally-enslaved persons to read. Then in 1964, as part of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, the National Council of Churches and SNCC formed summer “Freedom Schools,” focused specifically on literacy, humanities, science and math. These schools, often “taught” by white, northern college students, also had a larger purpose: to show young, Southern black Americans that they were valued and to engage them in community problem-solving.
The Children’s Defense Fund has initiated the third wave with the development a modern, evidence-based summer learning and family engagement model. The model retains the historical focus on offering a culturally-appropriate program designed to empower and promote civic engagement and literacy. The model is defined by five essential components:
High-quality academic enrichment, which includes age- and culturally-appropriate books that are part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum involving reinforcing activities, field trips and games.
Parent and family involvement at multiple levels, from morning introductory activities to classroom assistance to supporting community projects.
Social action and civic engagement by our children and youth so that they are prepared to be active citizens. Participants engage in solving community problems and do social justice work, including through a Children’s Defense Fund yearly National Day of Social Action.
Intergenerational servant leadership development, by engaging college students and recent graduates to deliver the program, many of whom have had Freedom School experience themselves.
Nutrition, health and mental health, by requiring programs to provide—at a minimum—two USDA-compliant meals and a snack each day of operation, while training staff to recognize the importance of providing therapeutic health and mental health services.
With your financial support, All Souls Unitarian Church would offer five-weeks of programming for up to 50 school-age children in summer 2017. Indianapolis has pervasive educational and opportunity disparities and our congregation sits in a high-need community. The church is in close proximity to two struggling public elementary schools. Robert Lee Frost is 87% African-American and over 80% free and reduced-price lunch. In 2014, only 51% of students passed both English and Math in ISTEP. Only 65% of students passed the IREAD-3. At Brook Park, 76% of students are African-American or Hispanic and over 76% qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Only 52% passed ISTEP in 2014. Opportunity disparities in is high. Nearly 25% of individuals in the All Souls zip code (46226) live in poverty and nearly 40% of children live at or below the poverty level. We know from national-level research that poverty is correlated with fewer summer learning and other enrichment opportunities.
All Souls has already begun to build a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals committed to making a Freedom School a permanent fixture in Indianapolis.
Our partners include, but are not limited to, the neighborhood elementary schools near the church, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis, neighborhood organizations, the League of Women Voters, the Indianapolis Public Library, and the education departments of Indiana University, Butler University, and Marion University.
“Indiana Black Expo, as the backbone support organization for the Your Life Matters Initiative, is in full support of All Souls’ endeavors with the development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis.” – Tanya Bell President & CEO Indiana Black Expo, Inc.
“The development of a Freedom School in Indianapolis is an important service and support for youth in the northeast part of our city. I applaud All Souls Unitarian Church for its vision and for making social justice visible for children who need a supportive community and gifts that participation in a Freedom School provides.” – Dr. Cindy Jackson, Positive Discipline Coordinator, IPS district, and member of the education committee of the Your Life Matters Task Force