The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. The CDF Freedom Schools model incorporates the totality of the Children’s Defense Fund’s mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference.
The Johnstown-Northridge Freedom School held its inaugural summer program in 2013 at Northridge Middle School, serving 46 children in Kindergarten through fifth grade, and their families. In 2014, we enrolled 50 children. In 2015, we enrolled 64 children. By 2017 we are over 130 scholars being served. We are the first rural CDF Freedom School in Ohio and the only CDF Freedom School in Licking County. This year, we are expanding our program in: size, by expanding to 100 children to be served; grade level, to serve children through eighth grade; and location, by having three locations, in the Northridge Local School District, the village of Johnstown and the city of Newark.
The target population is children who have completed Kindergarten through 8th grade in the Northridge Local, Johnstown-Monroe, and Newark City School Districts and surrounding areas. We give priority to students who are recommended by teachers and principals because of an academic, socio-economic or emotional need. The goal of the program is to help high-risk children stem summer learning loss, fall in love with reading, and to teach them that they can make a difference. Additionally, the program trains and develops young adult leaders who deliver the program to the scholars.
The day begins with breakfast and a morning group gathering called “Harambee” where scholars (the children) and staff sing a motivational song, hear a story read by a community leader, and perform various cheers and dancing. Each morning the scholars participate in an integrated reading curriculum in groups of 10 and then have a quiet individual reading time (Drop Everything And Read). The afternoons are filled with games, crafts, science projects, field trips, and service projects all centered on the theme of building the scholars to believe that they can make a positive difference in the world around them. The program will runs for six weeks in the summer, from the third week of June through the end of July from 8 am – 3 pm each day, Monday through Friday (except July 4).