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Claflin University Receives Children’s Defense Fund Grant to Start Freedom School for Local Male Youth

Apr 10, 2012

The Children’s Defense Fund has awarded Claflin University a $50,000 grant to establish a six- week summer program to enhance the academic and cultural growth of local elementary school African-American male students.

“We are thrilled to partner with Claflin University and hope this effort will grow as we seek to ensure every South Carolina child has an education that prepares them for the future,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

The funding will allow Claflin to start a Freedom School, which aims to spur reading, boost self-esteem and cultivate positive attitudes toward learning in children.  Using a model curriculum, Freedom Schools operate on five tenets: high quality academic enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health.

Last summer, there were 151 Freedom School sites nationwide serving more than 9,800 children.  The Claflin Freedom School - which will be the only one in the Midlands - will serve 50 local African-American students in the third, fourth and fifth grades from Orangeburg Consolidated Schools Districts 3, 4 and 5.

“We always strive to provide world-class educational opportunities to our students and the community at-large,” said President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale.  “The addition of a Freedom School to our campus is another avenue for Claflin University to improve the human condition.”

The concept of Freedom Schools was derived from the Freedom Riders movement of the 1960s, an effort by 400 black and white volunteers who sought to fight against and bring awareness to the injustice of segregation.  Two Claflin alumni – Dr. Thomas Gaither, ’60, and Glenda Gaither-Davis, ’63, were prominent members of the Freedom Riders.  The primary goal of Freedom Schools is to close the achievement gap between African-American and Caucasian students by opening up leadership and academic opportunities.

Dean of the School of Education Dr. Valerie Harrison said the summer sessions will focus on literacy using books possessing the themes of justice and liberty.  Participating students will conduct science experiments and make art projects.  Character development will also play an integral role, she said. 

“We will teach them the importance of civic responsibility,” she said.

The students will engage in enrichment activities such as educational field trips, taekwondo and motivation songs called Harambee.

Harrison noted the Freedom School at Claflin will greatly benefit education majors who will serve as servant leaders that teach and mentor the youth.  “This will give our education students critical experience in developing lesson plans and working with children one-on-one,” said Harrison.

Claflin education majors will also receive a stipend.  All of the servant leaders for the Claflin Freedom School will receive training at a national conference in Tennessee.  The site coordinator will be Greg Scott, a senior education major who will graduate this May. 

“The focus is on ensuring our young African-American male students are more successful in school and beyond,” said Harrison. 

For more information on the Claflin Freedom, please contact Harrison by phone at (803) 535-5225 or by e-mail by vharrison@claflin.edu.

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