What are CDF Freedom Schools?

What are CDF Freedom Schools?

CDF Freedom Schools® are six-week summer programs designed to increase literacy, self-esteem, socio-emotional skills, and a love of learning for children in grades K-8. We disrupt the summer learning slide by keeping scholars
engaged and stimulated.

While enrollment is open to all children, our target audience is low-income, public school children, who otherwise may not have access to books and educational enhancement programs during the summer, particularly African-American and Latino children from at-risk communities.

CDF Freedom Schools® help children discover their potential and greatness. We utilize books and a curriculum that celebrate the cultures and contributions of people of color. We also employ young-adult teachers and mentors who serve as role models and mentors.

Since 1995, more than 137,000 preK-12 children have had a CDF Freedom Schools experience and more than 16,000 college students and young adult staff have been trained by CDF to deliver this empowering model.


Daily Agenda

7:30 – 8:45 a.m. Breakfast (provided at no charge)
8:45 – 9:45 am Harambee!
9:45 – 10:00 am Morning Break
10:00 – 11:30 a.m. Integrated Reading Curriculum
11:30 – 11:45 p.m. Drop Everything and Read
11:45 – 12:30 p.m. Lunch (provided at no charge)
12:30 – 3:00 p.m. Afternoon Activities
– S.T.E.M
– Hip-hop poetry
– Spanish, Mandarin, French or sign-language classes
– Field trips
– Dance
– Vocal music/music appreciation
– Craft-making/visual arts
– Black History competitions
– Food preparation
3:00 – 3:30 p.m. Wrap-up and dismissal

HNUSR Freedom School was organized in summer 2014 and began with 50 students at the Fellowship of Faith Church.


After breakfast and before reading classes begin, Freedom Schools celebrate a time of Harambee! (Swahili for “let’s pull together), including songs, cheers, chants, stomps, and a Read-Aloud Guest. The purpose is to celebrate our unity of purpose and get the scholars “pumped up” to learn.

Scholars shout Freedom School cheer and sing our national motivational song — “Something Inside So Strong” by Ladi Siffre — to build community, celebrate cultural pride, and demonstrate social awareness and action.

The Curriculum

CDF Freedom Schools® employ the Integrated Reading Curriculum, which uses age-appropriate books under the national theme for CDF Freedom Schools®, “I Can Make A Difference.”


Download CDF Freedom School Curriculum Guide Example Lesson Plan

The curriculum each week focuses on making a difference in myself, in my family, in my community, in my country, and in my world. The last week’s theme is making a difference “with hope, education, and action.”


The books are selected by a nationwide panel of educators, family therapists, sociologists and social workers. They must meet the following criteria:

  • Are developmentally appropriate.
  • Lend themselves to a range of interesting, creative activities.
  • Relate authentic history, culture and heritage through the eyes of teens and children.
  • Introduce people of all ages who have made a difference in the lives of others.
  • Encourage young people to involve themselves in community service, no matter their circumstances.
  • Help children explore fundamental issues related to self-esteem.
  • Expand their capacity to dream and to believe that they can make a difference.