CDF Freedom Schools

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CDF Freedom Schools2019-04-10T14:49:05-07:00


Freedom Schools:

Reading is the key to unlocking a child’s unlimited potential.

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The CDF Freedom Schools® Model

Rooted in the Mississippi Freedom Summer project of 1964, the CDF Freedom Schools® program is a six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program designed to serve children and youth in grades K–12 in communities where quality academic enrichment programming is limited, too expensive, or non-existent. By partnering with schools, faith and community-based organizations, municipalities, colleges and universities, and juvenile detention facilities, we are able to offer this program in these communities at no-cost.

The CDF Freedom Schools program enhances children’s motivation to read and makes them feel good about learning. At the same time, the program connects families to the right resources in their communities. Freedom School students engage in a research-based, multicultural Integrated Reading Curriculum that supports them and their families through five essential components:

  1. High quality academic enrichment
  2. Parent and family development
  3. Civic engagement and social action
  4. Intergenerational servant leadership development
  5. Nutrition, health and mental health

Students also receive two nutritious meals and a snack daily, as well as a book each week to build their home libraries.

We believe in an intergenerational leadership model. That’s why the CDF Freedom Schools® program is staffed primarily by college students and recent college graduates, with a 10:1 child to adult ratio. As a result, many children and youth make significant gains in reading achievement and don’t experience any summer learning loss.

Through the CDF Freedom Schools model, we empower youth to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, country and world with hope, education and action.


Since 1995, more than 150,000 children (K–12) have had the CDF Freedom Schools® experience, and more than 17,000 young adults and child advocates have been trained on the delivery of the CDF Freedom Schools model, which has expanded to 182 program sites nation-wide.

2017 Data: Children Served by State

2017 Data: Children Served by Race/Ethnicity

The CDF Freedom Schools® program has made a statistically-significant and practically-significant positive impact on students in several ways. In 2017, almost all students either improved (56.2 percent) or maintained (27.8 percent) their reading skills over the course of the six-week program, and avoided the two-month summer learning loss suffered by children not participating in summer enrichment. Students reading below grade level at the beginning of the summer experienced the greatest gains.

Through the CDF Freedom Schools® program in 2017:

Join the Movement

Help build the next generation of scholars and leaders. Join hundreds of communities in 30 states across the country to experience the transformative effects of hosting CDF Freedom Schools® program sites.


The CDF Freedom Schools® program is made possible by the sponsorship of parents, local businesses, schools, churches and volunteers who work together to bring one or more CDF Freedom Schools sites to their community.

Sponsor A Program


Servant Leaders

Are you ready to lead? The CDF Freedom Schools® program is committed to training and nurturing a team of young leaders who are committed to service and advocacy on behalf of children.

Serve Your Community

Ella Baker Trainers

Each year, exceptional servant leaders are selected as Ella Baker Trainers (EBTs) to lead the Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institutes, provide technical support for new sites, and teach servant leader interns how to deliver key program components.

Become an EBT

Enroll A Child

Summer learning loss is a critical issue for all children, but especially in communities where high-quality academic enrichment programs are unavailable. Don’t let your child fall behind.

Enroll A Child

Star Servant Leaders

With a program theme of “I Can Make A Difference”, the CDF Freedom Schools® program helps children overcome their circumstances and regain a sense of hope through books, engaging activities and tangible role models called Servant Leader Interns. Servant Leader Interns play an integral role, as they provide front-line care and nurturing to the children and families participating in the CDF Freedom Schools® program. Each year, Servant Leader Interns engage in a summer of service, but make a lifetime commitment by joining the movement to Leave No Child Behind. As a result, Servant Leader Interns extend the CDF Freedom Schools® mission through their work beyond their local communities.

Meet a few of our star CDF Freedom Schools® Servant Leaders:

Contact CDF Freedom Schools®

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