What We Do



A recent national study commissioned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of 3rd Grade children found…

• One in six children (17 percent) who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.

• The rates are highest for the low, below-basic readers: 23 percent of these children drop out or fail to finish high school on time, compared to 9 percent of children with basic reading skills and 4 percent of proficient readers.

• For children who were poor for at least a year and were not reading proficiently in third grade, the proportion of those who don’t finish school rose to 26 percent. The rate was highest for poor black and Hispanic students, at 31 and 33 percent respectively.

Hernandez, D. J., & Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2011). Double jeopardy: How third-grade reading skills and poverty influence high school graduation. Baltimore MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

For children who are already significantly behind in academic achievement, the summer break tends only to exacerbate the problem. Children from low-income communities tend to fall further behind their middle-class peers because low-income parents can’t afford quality summer programs or experiences.

We are working to provide
all Huntsville children with the opportunity
for a good education.










The CDF Freedom Schools® program seeks to build strong, literate, and empowered children prepared to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, nation and world today. By providing summer and after-school reading enrichment for children who might otherwise not have access to books, the CDF Freedom Schools® program plays a much-needed role in helping to curb summer learning loss and close achievement gaps.

The CDF Freedom Schools® program model curriculum supports children and families around the five essential components below.


At CDF Freedom Schools programs, children are engaged in activities that nurture their minds, bodies, and spirits. Children, parents, and staff are introduced to a superb collection of books that reflect their own images and reinforce the CDF Freedom Schools theme I Can Make a Difference. This collection of books reflects a wide variety of cultures and experience and is part of an Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) in which books, activities, field trips, and games all relate to and reinforce each other. Servant leader interns, college students and recent graduates trained by CDF, use the IRC to teach children conflict resolution and critical thinking skills, engage children in community service and social action projects, encourage children to participate in art and athletic activities, and help children to develop a program finale in which every child is given the chance to shine.


Parents and family members are the most important partners in their children’s education. The CDF Freedom Schools program offers parents and family members the support and skills they need to help their children succeed. Caregivers are required to demonstrate their commitment to the program and to their children’s education and development by becoming actively involved in the daily CDF Freedom Schools activities. Parents, family members and community members are invited to serve as read aloud guests during Harambee; assist in the classroom, on the playground and during meals; plan and chaperone field trips; and support the children’s social action and community service projects. Family members also participate in weekly workshops where they learn about the educational and social development of children and gain the necessary skills to empower themselves and their families to succeed.


The social action and civic engagement component of the CDF Freedom Schools model teaches youth to engage in community service and social justice advocacy. Children learn to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they become more responsible members of their communities. Servant leader interns encourage the children not only to explore the problems facing their communities but also to become active in working toward solutions.

Each year, thousands of children and teens from CDF Freedom Schools sites nationwide participate in CDF Freedom Schools National Day of Social Action. Participants take part in a variety of actions including visiting and writing letters to elected officials, joining together for marches and rallies and other public education activities. Children learn that they are not citizens in waiting but can make a difference right now.


The CDF Freedom Schools® program is a servant leadership incubator for two generations – the children served and the college students and recent graduates who teach and serve them. Training coordinated by the CDF Freedom Schools national office prepares the young adults to provide an enriching experience for the children they serve. The Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute promotes principles of servant leadership by fostering an understanding of the connection between effective programs and public policy, and the importance of community development, political advocacy, and coalition building. The strong ethic of service is evident across generations, as community leaders support these servant leaders while they teach and mentor the younger children.


The CDF Freedom Schools programs will provide two nutritious meals and a snack each day the program is in operation.  These meals meet USDA nutrition standards.  CDF Freedom Schools programs serving distressed children and families will also incorporate therapeutic interventions and health and mental health services.  The Ella Baker Child Policy and Training Institute promotes principles of personal responsibility and the development of healthy lifestyle choices.


HNUSR builds meaningful relationships and partnerships within the community that strengthen our collective commitment to children and lead to sustainable change.