Every morning chants and cheers from the voices of 60 energized students fill the hallways of the Old Chemistry Building on the West Campus of Duke University.
The 60 students of the Duke CDF Freedom Schools® program start their adventurous day by participating in Harambee, meaning “come together” in Swahili.
During Harambee the children are read favorite childhood books of community members, including Durham Mayor William Bell. The children are encouraged to sing, dance and announce recognitions.
“I like to sing the songs we sing in Harambee. It’s my favorite part [because] we dance and clap,” said 8-year-old Bryan Montiel Elvira.
The Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools model allows students who are at risk of losing academic ground during the summer to participate in educational, inspiring lessons and activities while developing their love of reading.
This summer is the first time Duke University has sponsored a Freedom Schools program. The program will run for six weeks and serves 60 rising second and third graders from Lakewood and E.K. Powe Elementary Schools. Most of the students participated in the 2010-2011 Afterschool Reading Academy during the school year, also sponsored by the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs.
The program is led by Cheryal Isaac, an academic coach at Lakewood during the school year, and taught by paid and trained student interns from Duke University.
“I think the program is unique because there are no more than 10 students in each class,” said Charlene Brown, a Duke Divinity student and one of the program interns. ”The interns have to model the program for the scholars; even when they’re reading independently, the interns are reading as well, and I think that that develops a level of excitement.”
Along with afternoon field trips and cultural and recreational activities, the program includes the CDF Freedom Schools® Integrated Reading Curriculum.
“For me the literature that was selected is absolutely phenomenal,” Isaac said. “It helps them see the world through books, it helps them deal with day to day problems through books.”
During the duration of the six-week program, students will create their own books filled with memories of their summer experiences. The books were put on display at the Nasher Museum of Art, which also hosted the Program Finale on July 29.