Claflin University opened its doors to host one of the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program the summer, a first in the Midlands region.
The Claflin Freedom School program was one of seven freedom school sites in South Carolina. Its model centers on five core components: high literacy; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health.
The University engaged 50 African American male students between ages 8-11 in grades 3-5 at no cost in a vigorous reading program. The program centered on the Children’s Defense Fund’s Integrated Reading Curriculum, an activity-oriented instruction designed to excite students about the joy and fulfillment that comes from reading.
The Claflin Freedom Schools site introduced students to a wide variety of cultural and self-empowerment themes such as: “I Can Make a Difference: in Myself, My Family, Community, Country and World with Hope, Education and Action. They spent an hour each day studying and analyzing these themes through reading assignments, class discussions, cooperative group activities, and conflict resolution and social action activities.
The young scholars also participated in afternoon activities like arts and crafts, zumba, sign-language, chess, music, poetry, and educational field trips.
Participants were afforded an opportunity to explore and expand their horizons at EdVentures Children’s Museum in Columbia. This experience gave scholars valuable insights into the diversity of career fields available to them. Some of the life-sized exhibits included a fire truck, farm tractor, grocery store, dentist office, medical office, and a depiction of the human anatomy.
Parents were also empowered by this program through weekly parent meetings on Thursday evenings. They gained valuable information on topics ranging from voter education to healthcare to character building, among others.
Recently, the program culminated with an end-of-summer finale, which was attended by 117 people. The Claflin scholars filled the air with music, joy, and a play entitled, “My Freedom School”. This play spoke to the hearts of the people in the audience about petitioning for Freedom School to return next year. Scholars then went on to close the event by singing a song entitled, “Something Inside so Strong” by Labi Siffre.
Christopher Key, a 10-year-old who attended the Claflin Freedom School program, said the teachers and student leaders were very helpful.
“I really enjoyed the Freedom School because it gave me a chance to spend part of my summer with a group of other boys my age while reading books and being creative,” Key said.