Since KCFSI’s inception in 1995, over 15,000 children and youth in the Greater Kansas City area have been served. The goal of the CDF Freedom Schools program, a summer and after-school literacy program developed by the Children’s Defense Fund, is to help children fall in love with reading and boost their motivation to achieve. Children are taught using a research-based multicultural curriculum that supports children and families around five components: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and physical and mental health. Additionally, CDF Freedom Schools programs help connect the needs of children and families to the resources in their communities.

“The Kansas City model has been and continues to be a leader in the CDF Freedom Schools family,” said Marian Wright Edelman. “We are grateful and proud of our partnership with Kansas City stalwart, Dwayne Crompton, who has advised us on national programming initiatives and led innovative and creative program development in the Greater Kansas City area including forging a partnership with the highly touted Kauffman Foundation. Last year, Kansas City Freedom Schools introduced the Saturday Leadership Academy which we hope to replicate nationwide. With this CDF Freedom Schools Challenge Grant, we are recognizing the impact of the Kansas City model on children and hoping to stimulate more economic support for these critically needed programs from the local community.”

In 2004, CDF Freedom Schools received the first Excellence in Summer Learning Award presented by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning. The award recognizes individuals and organizations working to improve the quality and availability of summer learning opportunities for children and youth.

A 2010 evaluation to determine the program’s impact on the reading ability of students enrolled in the CDF Freedom Schools programs in Charlotte, N.C., conducted by the Center for Adolescent Literacies at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, confirmed the program staunches summer learning loss and benefits children by helping them maintain or improve their reading ability.

The CDF Freedom Schools program is modeled after the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began teaching children and youth as part of the movement for civil rights and voter registration. As part of the Freedom Summer initiative, activists created 30 “Freedom Schools” in Mississippi, taught by college students and using a curriculum focused on reading, arithmetic, Black history and the philosophy of social change.

A quote from Marian Wright Edelman, “Freedom Schools are proudly rooted in the American Civil Rights Movement and the courageous efforts of college youth to make a difference.” Since 1995, 90,000 K-12 children have experienced CDF Freedom Schools and more than 12,000 college students and young adult staff have been trained to deliver this empowering model.