WINSTON-SALEM, NC (WGHP) — The cafeteria at Kimberly Park Elementary School in Winston-Salem is full of active students. At first glance, you might think this is a typical summer camp gathering.
But if you take another look, you will see it is different.
Rashawn Meekins, the program director for Freedom School, a summer literacy program designed by the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington DC, it’s not your normal summer program.
“We don’t sit and get, they’re up, they’re doing cooperative group activities, they’re excited about the things that they’re creating.”
The day gets started with Harambe.
“Harambe is a key Swahili word that means let’s come together,” Meekins said.
That’s exactly what they do.!
“This is a time where we get the scholars energized and just ready for the day. It gives them the opportunity to sing, dance, just the opportunity to just be themselves.”
She calls the students “Scholars” and the teachers “Servant Leader Interns.” That’s the Freedom School way.
“Everything is intentional when it comes to Freedom School so all of our cheers and chants deal with spelling call and response, different things like that to get the scholars ready.”
After Harambe, it’s time to head to the classroom, which Meekins calls the “meat and potatoes” of Freedom School. There you will find students active and engaged in reading. Making reading fun is their top priority.
“It’s a six-week program, summer program, and each week is a different thing,” she said. “So I can make a difference in myself, that’s week one. I can make a difference in my family. I can make a difference in my community, I can make a difference in my world, I can make a difference in my country, and I can make a difference with hope, education and action.”
The classroom walls are full of their work which is a testament to the fun they’ve had with the books they’ve read. There is also a word wall which Meekins says really helps the students in the long run.
“As we’re reading, scholars come to a word that they don’t know. Oh, that’s a word wall word. Let’s put it up on our word wall so we can learn what it is. So, it also teaches scholars that vocabulary. And then before you know it, you’ll hear scholars using the different vocabulary that they learn from these groups.”
Scholars come away with loads of confidence to get them ready for the school year.
“It motivates them to want to learn how to read. They come to this library. This is a well-diverse library, and they see books, they look at the covers. It really gets them motivated to want to read.”
But the best outcome she says, may be the love of reading these scholars have discovered, which everyone hopes will continue for years to come.