By Maheen Siddiqui
President Samuel L. Stanley announced that this summer, Stony Brook University is to offer a “Freedom School” — an enrichment program founded by the Children’s Defense Fund in an effort to reach “undeserved youth.”
Inspired by the work of Marian Wright Edelman, a dedicated children’s advocate, Stanley made the announcement alongside Edelman at the university’s Presidential Lecture Series. Edelman is the founder and president of the CDF, and she served as lecturer for the event.
Stanley said he got in touch with Edelman after hearing last year’s Lecture Series speakers, Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. Cornel West, scholar and activist, and Tavis Smiley, talk-show host and author, toured the nation together to talk about poverty issues. When President Stanley asked what he could do to become more involved, West and Smiley told him about Edelman’s programs.
The CDF Freedom Schools program is offered during the summer and is designed to provide children with a structured learning environment. It also aims to bring families and the general community together to increase children’s interest in learning.
The Freedom Schools, established in 1992 and modeled after the Mississippi Freedom Schools of the 1960s, have partnered with numerous institutions, serving more than 11,500 children in 25 states and 83 cities.
The CDF Freedom School at Stony Brook University will start July 8 and continue for six weeks. The program will host 50 third-grade students from mostly low-income families. Under the Defense Fund rules, 90% of the students participating in the program must meet poverty-level criteria.
President Stanley says the Freedom Schools program is something far different from anything the University has done before, referring to the focus of the program being on third-graders. However, he says he hopes the program continues on in future years to come, not just for the benefit of the youth involved, but also for the students of the University.
“This is an amazing educational resource for our students,” said President Stanley. “A Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School provides students — the mentors of today — an opportunity to teach and to become role models for the mentors of tomorrow. It is an invaluable program that has had a positive impact on many of our nation’s youth.”
The students will be coming from the Longwood and Wyandanch school districts to join the participate. The program mostly focuses on motivating students to read, to build positive attitudes towards learning and to bring the needs of these children and their families together with their communities. They will also be exposed to computers and science.
The model curriculum is made up of five essential components: top-notch academic achievement, parent/family involvement, social action and civic engagement, inter-generational service leadership development and nutrition, health and mental health.
It is a free program for all participants and students involved, with the University handling all the costs.
Stony Brook University students, graduate and undergraduate, are to act as role models to the children. It is an opportunity for students and the University alike to give back to the community.
Parents and families of the participating students are also a crucial part of the program. They will be required to attend “parents’ sessions” once a week, for at least an hour. Parental involvement in their children’s education is essential to their success according to the vice provost for undergraduate education at Stony Brook University, Charles L. Robbins.
Wyandanch Superintendent Pless Dickerson also called parental involvement “critical.”
The CDF Freedom School at Stony Brook University will allow the university to connect with Long Island families and students at a young age, planting the seed of their love for knowledge and education. Additional learning opportunities will be developed in the future for these children.