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Lack of Concern for Students in LA County Court System

While attending public school at Crenshaw High, I saw first-hand how content proficiency, culturally responsive education, and committed educators can transform the trajectory of low-income and marginalized communities. The revelations of systemic inequities, uncovered in my Social Studies classes, inspired me to become an educator — ultimately leading me to justice-informed youth, a population I knew required the most support. Unfortunately, my years teaching young people in Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) court schools has shown me these inequities persist at alarming rates. Despite society claiming to want to correct racial inequities in the justice and education systems following the murder of George Floyd and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in court schools, 90% of whom are students of color, have been left behind. Our school district has received an ongoing “Red” or “Orange” — not [...]

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COVID-19 Response Perpetuates Inequities for Vulnerable Children & Families

CDF-CA Statement on COVID-19 For Immediate Release: March 14, 2020 Media Contact: Cadonna Dory, (323) 385-6342 COVID-19 Response Perpetuates Inequities for Vulnerable Children and Families In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA) releases the following statement: The COVID-19 pandemic is triggering a global emergency response that is shifting the daily lives of families across the nation and the world. While the incidence and risk of COVID-19 are lower for children, COVID-19 is adversely impacting their quality of life through school closures and their parents losing employment. Basic needs are at stake and we demand that officials pay attention to the needs of low-income, mixed-status, and Black, Brown and Indigenous families. “Despite what is being said, our children are not being spared from COVID-19. In fact, it is our most vulnerable -- poor Black, Brown and Indigenous children -- [...]

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CDF-CA 2020-21 Budget Proposal Statement

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2020 Contact: Cadonna Dory, (323) 385-6342   Governor Newsom’s Budget Proposal Makes Much-Needed Investments in Education, Health and Juvenile Justice, but More Needs to Be Done to End Child Poverty In response to Governor Newsom’s budget proposal released today, Children’s Defense Fund-California released the following: Children’s Defense Fund-California has long-focused on ensuring that all children have the opportunity to thrive. In order for that to happen, investments need to be directed toward those who need it the most. We are pleased with the governor’s continued investment in community schools, Medi-Cal and transforming the juvenile justice system. With that said, poverty is a significant underlying cause of the poor outcomes and challenges facing California’s children, particularly children of color, and this budget proposal does not fully address the economic inequities across the state. “CDF-CA appreciates the governor [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Elia Aguiñiga

Elia Aguiñiga knows what it’s like to grow up in a working-class neighborhood with under-resourced schools and where opportunities seem sparse. As she thinks back, Elia remembers times when poor decisions could have derailed her life. One of those times was an arrest when she was 17. “It was just dumb,” she said, shaking her head. Now, more than 10 years later, Elia uses her experiences to connect with her students as an instructional aide in El Monte where she grew up, and as a servant leader intern for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. CDF Freedom Schools is a six-week summer literary and cultural enrichment program offered in several states across the country. Children’s Defense Fund partners with schools, faith and community-based organizations, municipalities, colleges and universities to run the program in the communities that need them the most. In California, in [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Vicki Olivares

It was Vicki Olivares’ third year in college at Cal State Dominguez Hills when a counselor asked if she was looking for a summer job working with kids. She said yes, thinking it would be an easy job watching children play. But she quickly realized it was so much more. “Little did I know that it wasn’t just a job, it was a movement and that it would shape my entire philosophy of teaching,” she said. That was 15 years ago. Since then, Olivares has been a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program servant leader intern, teaching various levels of scholars over multiple summers and is now site coordinator for the Long Beach program site, hosted by Success in Challenges. Olivares is also a first grade teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District. Much of her successes as a teacher she [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Jessie Ryan

When Brooklyn Mataka was adopted at 3½ years old, she had a limited vocabulary. Her adoptive mother, Jessie Ryan, said it was evident that she had not had much exposure to books or verbal stimulation. Jessie immediately started reading and talking to Brooklyn regularly. And by the time she hit kindergarten age, Brooklyn was using appropriate words to communicate. However, she was still lagging behind in her literacy development, so much so that it was affecting her self-esteem. "She didn't even have the confidence to try to read or write," Jessie said. That is when she learned about the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. She fell in love with everything the program had to offer. "I noticed a difference in Brooklyn almost immediately after starting the CDF Freedom Schools program," her mother said. "By the end of the first week, she [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Courtney Linsey

Courtney Linsey’s grandfather was a bishop for the Christian Episcopal Methodist Church, went to high school with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was once even arrested with him for civil disobedience during one of King’s many protests against segregation during the Civil Rights Movement. One would think with a grandfather like that, Courtney’s path would have been clear from the start. But it wasn’t. It took a while before Courtney grew into his roots. He was a social teenager and did what teenage boys do. When he finally went to college, he started to see the world a little different. His first year at Cal State Fullerton was sprinkled with racism and it was where he got his first real exposure to activism. Several years later, he learned about the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program and went [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Derrell Roberts

In California each year, more than 1,200 scholars participate in Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools®, a six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program. Many of these children attend sites in the Sacramento area hosted by Roberts Family Development Center. The summer of 2019 marked the sixth year Roberts Family Development Center and its founders, Derrell and Tina Roberts, have partnered with Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA) to run the program. Enrollment has grown from 160 students in the first year to almost 900 in 2018. In 2019, they had six sites serving 640 youth in first through eighth grades from three Sacramento area school districts. Funding the program was a challenge in the beginning, said Derrell Roberts. But securing support got much easier after realizing improved reading scores, increased parent engagement, and positive ethnic identity benefits that are challenging for many districts. [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Antoinette MaGee

When Antoinette MaGee was pregnant she remembers hearing about the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® program. And once she learned more about it, and visited a site, she was sold. “I knew I wanted my baby to be in the program,” she said. “I used to say ‘Please, Paula just stay around long enough so that I can put my baby in the program.” MaGee is referring to longtime CDF Freedom Schools partner Paula Woods. She and her husband, Leon, run Success in Challenges, a social service nonprofit organization in Long Beach. MaGee was working with the Woods on some of their other programs. Almost six years later, MaGee got her wish. Her 5-year-old daughter, Katelynn, is a CDF Freedom Schools scholar at the Success in Challenges site and it would be an understatement to say that Katelynn likes the program. [...]

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CDF Freedom Schools® Spotlight: Alfreca Howard

Alfreca Howard and her son, Ausar In college, Alfreca Howard’s major was Africana Studies. Since then she has fully embraced her culture and does everything she can to make sure her 11-year-old son, Ausar, knows and understands Black history. So when she came across a literacy and cultural enrichment program that kept the legacy of civil rights leader and human rights activist Ella Baker alive, she knew her son had to be a part of it. “Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® reinforces the values and cultural foundation that I have instilled in my son,” Howard said. “We are in alignment and it feels so good. We are speaking a common language.” For Howard, the CDF Freedom Schools climate is much needed to contrast the very different experiences children get in public schools, where often Black and Brown youth are set up [...]

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