What We Do

The CDF Freedom Schools® program is a research based and multicultural summer enrichment opportunity that helps children and youth fall in love with reading, boost self-esteem, and generate more positive attitudes toward learning. We partner with families, caring community leaders, and credible organizations throughout California to create a safe nurturing learning environment that encourages children and teens to believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves and in their families, schools, communities, country, and world with hope, education and action. 

Making an Impact

Research shows that the CDF Freedom Schools program is making an impact in the lives of children and families across the country. In 2012, a four-year study of children enrolled at Charlotte CDF Freedom Schools sites conducted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte found that over 90 percent of participating children showed no summer learning loss, and 63 percent showed gains in reading. In 2011, the Harvard Family Research Project released highlighting the CDF Freedom Schools program as one of the 14 innovative national programs with “demonstrated success in providing quality learning opportunities for youth.” In 2004, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Summer Learning honored the program with the nation’s first Excellence in Summer Learning Award.

Making a Difference

The CDF Freedom Schools “I Can Make a Difference” theme lets children know that they are not citizens in waiting but agents of change. Children are empowered to serve and make a difference in themselves, their families, schools, and communities with education and action. We train college students and recent graduates as Servant Leader Interns to deliver the Integrated Reading Curriculum, a dynamic educational methodology that aligns with the Common Core State State Standards and and includes science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities.

Making History

The CDF Freedom Schools program is rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, and the courageous efforts of college age youth to make a difference. The program was reborn in 1992 under the leadership of Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund as an intergenerational effort to reweave the fabric of families and communities and create a new generation of servant leaders to prepare children for school and for life. Since 1995, over 125,000 children across the nation have experienced the CDF Freedom Schools program, and over 15,000 college students and recent graduates, teachers, and probation staff have been trained to deliver this empowering model.