California Sends Largest Delegation Ever to Children’s Defense
Fund Freedom Schools® National Training in Tennessee

Over 300 college students and graduates, teachers, probation officers, artists, and nonprofit partners will build skills to empower children through the CDF Freedom Schools summer literacy program

For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 28, 2015

For More Information Contact:

Hanif Houston, Children’s Defense Fund – California, (213) 201-0833, 

Knoxville, TN – This week, Children’s Defense Fund-California will convene a delegation of over 300 California participants at the 2015 Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute for the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program. During the intense, week-long training, college-aged Servant Leader Interns, teachers, community leaders, probation officers and program coordinators will learn how to deliver the CDF Freedom Schools curriculum and make learning fun.

"The Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute provides methodological, philosophical and moral foundation for the CDF Freedom Schools program,” said Alex Johnson, Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund - California. “Participants not only develop the skills and knowledge necessary to operate a successful program site back in their community - but they also come away with a clear vision for what they want for children and the courage to bring that vision into reality.”

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of CDF Freedom Schools and 32 California sites in communities from San Diego to Los Angeles to Bakersfield to Oakland to Sacramento will serve more than 2,000 children and youth. CDF Freedom Schools provide child-centered summer enrichment programs in partnership with community-based organizations, faith institutions, schools, universities, and juvenile probation camps to help children fall in love with reading, increase their self-esteem, and generate more positive attitudes toward learning.

"One of the most unique elements of the CDF Freedom Schools program is the National Training, which arms our Servant Leader Interns with the skills to create an academically and culturally enriching summer experience for children while inspiring the passion and energy needed to make a difference for children and families," said Saira Soto, Director of Programs at Children’s Defense Fund-California.

Over 2,000 participants from across the country will be trained at the CDF Haley Farm and the Knoxville Convention Center in Tennessee on the proven CDF Freedom Schools model that stems summer learning loss and improves reading ability. They will experience team-building exercises and learn how to implement the Integrated Reading Curriculum. Educators, civil rights leaders, and authors will address the participants to share their passion, wisdom and support for the CDF Freedom Schools program.

"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, Founder and 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 training also features a juvenile justice track where Servant Leader Interns, probation officers and teachers will train jointly  how to implement the CDF Freedom Schools in juvenile probation camps. This summer, CDF Freedom Schools will operate at 7 probation camps in Los Angeles and Alameda counties.

CDF Freedom Schools are making an impact in the lives of children by helping to stop summer learning loss and close achievement gaps. 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. CDF Freedom Schools sites have served more than 125,000 K-12 children across the nation since the program’s inception in 1995, and over 15,000 college students and recent graduates have been trained to deliver this empowering model.

Media and community members are invited to contact Hanif Houston at 510-684-0322 or to visit a CDF Freedom Schools site in California or participate as a guest reader. 


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 over 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. 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.

Related Resources

Background on the CDF Freedom Schools program

List of 2015 California CDF Freedom Schools sites


Visit a CDF Freedom Schools site

Contact Hanif Houston at 510–684–0322 or to visit a California site or participate as a guest reader.