Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools Sites Across California Launch for Summer

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2013
For More Information Contact:
Hanif Houston, 510-684-0322,

Los Angeles, CA –Nineteen Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools sites in California kickoff this month in communities from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In partnership with community-based organizations, faith institutions, schools, universities, and juvenile probation camps, CDF Freedom Schools provide child-centered summer enrichment programs that boost student capacity and motivation to read, and connect the needs of children and families to resources in their communities.

“The greatest threat to America’s economic and military security comes from no foreign enemy but from our own failure to invest in healthy and educated children. A majority of all children, more than 80 percent of all Black and more than 75 percent of all Latino public school students cannot read or compute at grade level in fourth or eighth grade. In the CDF Freedom Schools program children learn to fall in love with reading and are engaged in activities that develop their minds and bodies and nurture their spirits,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund. “The children are encouraged to dream about college and set goals for themselves, and for many of them, the program is a life-changing experience. We are forging a new vision for what can be done with and for our children.”

The CDF Freedom Schools program day opens with Harambee(Swahili for 'let's pull together'), an energetic time when the children, staff, and community come together to celebrate themselves and each other through guest readers, motivational songs, and cheers and chants. Following Harambee, highly-trained college students and recent graduates – called “servant leader interns” – lead the scholars in an Integrated Reading Curriculum focused on self esteem, literacy, critical thinking, and social action. Afternoons are often filled with music, dance, field trips or social action projects.

CDF Freedom Schools program sites in California are supported through partnerships with community-based and faith-based organizations and individual donors. The McGrath Abrams Family Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation and the Los Angeles District 2 Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have been dedicated advocates for the program, and currently support a network of sites within the Greater Los Angeles area.

"My husband JJ Abrams and I have witnessed first-hand the transformative impact of the CDF Freedom Schools on the students, parents and teachers who participate and we are proud to be a part of the effort here in Los Angeles," said Katie McGrath, Board Member of Children’s Defense Fund.  "There is no happier or more positive place to be in L.A. than at a CDF Freedom School during morning Harambee — we can't wait to join the kids again this summer!"

"CDF Freedom Schools not only celebrate literature, they instill a love for learning," said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. "The program affirms that every child deserves a healthy start, head start, fair start and moral start. That's why I am proud to sponsor Freedom Schools in the Second Supervisorial District. Now in our fourth year, we continue to expand Freedom Schools both in number of sites and participants. Three years ago we started with five sites; this year we have grown to six, and we also are doing something entirely novel: piloting the program at two probation camps with a partnership with the L.A. County Probation Department and the L.A. Office of Education."

“Freedom Schools inspire and energize every community they touch,” said Laura Wasserman, Board Member of Children’s Defense Fund. “Not only do they emphasize the most important skill for children, reading; they also provide a safe and nurturing environment in places where they are needed. Freedom Schools also give young leaders a chance to grow and give back to their community, something that proves so worthwhile in the years to come.”

CDF Freedom Schools are making an impact in the lives of children by helping to stop summer learning loss and close achievement gaps. In 2012, a four-year study conducted by the University of North Carolina, Charlotte of children enrolled at Charlotte Freedom Schools found over 90 percent of the children showed no summer learning loss, and 63 percent showed gains in reading.

Media and community members are invited to contact Hanif Houston at 510-684-0322 or to visit a CDF Freedom Schools site or participate as a guest reader. For more information on CDF Freedom Schools, visit the Children’s Defense Fund-California website at:

The 2013 CDF Freedom Schools sites are:

  • Agape International Spiritual Center, Culver City
  • FNCF Community Development Corporation, Los Angeles
  • Community Development Corporation, Inglewood
  • Community Coalition, Los Angeles
  • Stephen S. Wise Temple, Los Angeles
  • Miguel Contreras Foundation, Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles County Office of Education (2 sites), Malibu and LaVerne
  • Success In Challenges, Long Beach
  • Read Lead (2 sites), Carson and Lynwood
  • Pasadena Unified School District (2 sites), Pasadena
  • Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, San Francisco
  • Hannah Project Partnership for Academic Excellence, Marin City
  • LightWave Education, Bakersfield
  • Mt. Erie Christian Academy, San Diego
  • Lincoln Child Center (2 sites), Oakland


Children's Defense Fund-California is the California office of the Children's Defense Fund, a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. The Children’s Defense Fund champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, protect them from abuse and neglect, and ensure their access to health care, a quality education, and a moral and spiritual foundation. Visit the National office: