Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota Launches Nation’s First CDF Freedom Schools® Site for American Indian Children

June 16, 2015
For More Information Contact:
Jessica Anderson (651) 230-2486

Long-time program expands to American Indian community,
aims to curb summer learning loss, close opportunity gap 

St. Paul, Minn. – This week, Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® sites in the Twin Cities kicked off their six-week, comprehensive and culturally-relevant summer enrichment program for school-age children in high-poverty areas. Among Minnesota's CDF Freedom Schools sites is the first in the country to focus enrollment and curriculum on the American Indian community.
The CDF Freedom Schools program, celebrating its 20th year in Minnesota, is proven to curb summer learning loss, a critical component to closing the opportunity gap. The program provides enrichment that helps school-age children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, and generates more positive attitudes toward learning.
“We are excited to bring the CDF Freedom Schools model to the American Indian community of Minneapolis,” said Nation Wright, CDF-MN’s Freedom Schools® program director. “The program will feature culturally-relevant activities, including a Native-focused literacy curriculum.” Wright added that the graduation rate for American Indian high school students in Minneapolis has been rising steadily over the last five years but still lags far behind other groups. “Programs to accelerate achievement, like CDF Freedom Schools, will help move us forward," he said.

“Native parents have been asking for a culturally-specific summer programming option that would enable students to participate in cultural enrichment while also gaining solid academic skills,” added Danielle Grant, director of Indian Education for Minneapolis Public Schools. “This program will improve our students’ achievement, while also connecting them to their cultural identity.”
This summer, 1,200 children will participate in the CDF Freedom Schools program at sites across the Twin Cities metro area. Seventy-five American Indian children and their peers will attend the American Indian-focused program starting this week at the American Indian Center and Division of Indian Work site in Minneapolis, operating in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools Office of Indian Education. Other CDF Freedom Schools sites include: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (Folwell), North Community YMCA, Park Avenue United Methodist Church, Pillsbury United Communities (Oak Park), Sojourner Truth Academy, and Stadium View in Minneapolis; Birch Grove and Fair Oaks in Osseo; and Academia Cesar Chavez, St. Paul City School and St. Paul Public Schools in St. Paul.
According to the 2014 Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® National Assessment, more than 85 percent of students enrolled in the CDF Freedom Schools program nationwide maintained or gained in instructional reading level and did not experience summer learning loss. These results are significant given that according to the National Summer Learning Association, on average students from low-income families lose more than two months in reading achievement during the summer while their middle class peers make slight gains. The association also cites research showing that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities and that as a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college. Minnesota students from communities of color and American Indian communities are more likely to live in low-income families than their white counterparts and in turn face a steeper ladder to success.
CDF Freedom Schools are a national model. In 2014, 202 sites in 29 states plus Washington, D.C. operated the program, serving nearly 13,000 school-age children. The CDF Freedom Schools model curriculum incorporates academic enrichment, civic engagement and social action, nutrition, health, and mental health education, parent and family involvement, and intergenerational leadership development through the training and placement of college-age students and graduates as CDF Freedom Schools Servant Leader Interns. Children attending CDF Freedom Schools see themselves reflected in staff and a culturally-relevant curriculum, a factor known to contribute to educational success. 

For more information on CDF Freedom Schools click here

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.