While students look forward to summer break, the unstructured days of summer often lead to learning loss. This issue is of particular concern in student populations that already show a significant achievement gap. That’s why, for the second year, the Bainum Family Foundation partnered with Baltimore Junior Academy (BJA) to sponsor the Freedom Schools program.
Created by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Freedom Schools involve an engaging reading curriculum and social action projects in order to build strong, literate and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, their communities and the world. The program is a key part of CDF’s work to ensure a level playing field for all children.
This year, 100 K-8 students (up from 70 last year) from Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood participated in the six-week Freedom School program at BJA. The students (or “scholars”) learned to love reading in an innovative, fun and inspiring environment complete with breakfast and lunch – all free of charge.
Beginning each day with Harambee (motivational songs and chants), scholars then dove into an assortment of multicultural books, listened to local guest speakers and reading enthusiasts (including a Baltimore police officer) and learned about a variety of extracurricular topics such as visual arts, performing arts, American sign language and nutrition. Their agendas also included a few fun activities outside of the classroom — skating, playing laser tag and exploring Port Discovery. Additionally, the program offered an affordable after-school program.
The Foundation has partnered with BJA on other efforts to enhance facilities and academics at the Seventh-day Adventist school. The Foundation’s work in this community honors founder Stewart Bainum’s dedication to faith-based education while also aligning with the Foundation’s commitment to reaching underserved populations.
Shirelle Ellis-Williams, Program Associate at the Foundation, found her involvement with BJA’s Freedom Schools program renewing.
“I had the best reminder of why the work we do is important,” she said. “Watching the scholars progress, succeed and develop a genuine love for learning was incredibly rewarding. This program helps them pave the way to promising futures.”