The Freedom School program, an empowering initiative fostering academic growth, character enrichment, and community engagement, has become an inspiration of hope for children and families seeking an inclusive and vibrant educational experience.
Amber Dukes, a graduate of the Elementary Education Program at IU School of Education in Indianapolis, stood as a guiding light for students, leading a group of enthusiastic learners in grades 3rd through 5th. She connected literature to diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of identity and empowerment among young minds.
“It was my first time putting my major into effect in the classroom,” said Amber Dukes of the Freedom School program, “My major helps with directing kids."
Children are our freedom. They are our next generation. Showing these children opportunities, they can do more in life, and their voice matters, is something I'm proud to be a part of.
Notably, the program cherishes the legacy of educators like Ella Baker, whose courageous efforts in promoting children's rights remain etched in history. Her spirit lives on in the ethos of Freedom School, fostering a culture of activism and social awareness among the young participants.
A vital facet of the program lies in nurturing family involvement. Through dedicated parent nights and community engagements with esteemed guests, including medical professionals and community leaders, a collaborative environment was fostered, nurturing a holistic learning environment. For example, on one of the parental nights, they engaged in activities ranging from reading circles, and health information for their kids, and even sang songs while the parents and children played musical instruments.
The program's commitment to academic and character enrichment was vividly expressed through creative activities like plays, raps, and poems derived from the books read. Engaging in design, diagrams, and games, the children embraced a hands-on approach to learning that elevated their academic prowess and cultivated their character.
The program focuses on holistic development extended to mental health awareness. The reading of 'Take a Breath' resonated deeply with the children, imparting practical techniques to manage emotions. Witnessing the impact of such teachings on the children's well-being was a testament to the program's efficacy.
“Introducing new materials about black history but not telling them to hate America, they learn about Tamiya Rice, Trayvon Martin, etc.”, said Amber Dukes. “Seeing the hurt in the kid's eye was hard but it was something the kids needed to learn."
Yet, challenges arose, especially in introducing sensitive topics like black history, evoking emotions of pain and struggle. Navigating through these challenges with openness and compassion became an integral part of the children's learning journey. The transformative power of the Freedom Schools program became evident in the heartwarming success stories and moments that marked the children's growth. The 'Finally' showcase, 'Harambee' gatherings, and engaging community readings were testaments to their newfound confidence and unity.
Reflecting on her involvement, Ms. Dukes emphasized the important role of early childhood education in shaping the futures of children and communities. Recognizing children as the leaders of freedom and potential, she emphasized the significance of being an example, offering opportunities, and instilling the belief that every voice matters.
“Children are our freedom. They are our next generation”, said Amber Dukes of the Freedom School program, “showing these children opportunities, they can do more in life, and their voice matters is something I'm proud to be a part of.”
The Freedom School program, with its rich curriculum and holistic approach, is not just a summer enrichment program; it's a catalyst for change, nurturing empowered minds and fostering a brighter future for generations to come. Because this program has impacted many lives, we at the School of Education hope to foster the same nourishment for our students and beyond.