Summer of Success | August 2015

Beating the Odds for 25 Years: A Night at the Newseum

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Carolina Sosa
2014 Beat the Odds winner
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Help us celebrate 25 years of the CDF Beat the Odds® scholarship and leadership development program with some of our alumni and current scholars, now more than 900 strong, who have followed their dreams of college thanks to your support. They are doctors and lawyers, teachers and college professors, engineers and others continuing to give back to their communities. 

Come to our 25th Anniversary Beat the Odds Celebration at the Newseum on November 5, 2015 for a night to remember with CDF President Marian Wright Edelman and former and current members of CDF's Board of Directors. Meet and support our remarkable 2015 Beat the Odds awardees from the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Please consider becoming a sponsor or making a donation to support a program that is offering hope and making a difference in lives every day. Join us for a night at the Newseum, tickets are now available for purchase.

Summer Success in CDF Freedom Schools® Program

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Summer’s over and so is the CDF Freedom Schools summer program. We are so grateful to all those who made a difference in children’s lives including our partners in 28 states, the trainers and site coordinators, and the college students – the servant leader interns who dedicate their summers to teach and mentor the children. We are enormously appreciative of all who sponsor CDF Freedom Schools programs around the country. We also give special thanks to the reporters and editors who write stories on this empowering program and help us spread the word.

Here is a small sample of what they reported in July and August:

South End Students Bring "Hope" to City Hall
South Seattle Emerald

[Close to 150 children and youth] made their voices heard, calling for change and sending an inspiring message of hope to Seattle Public Schools administrators, Mayor Ed Murray, councilmember John Okamoto, and many other community leaders that joined in solidarity. These students, called scholars, were from the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools at two South-End sites—Rainier Ave. Church and Rainier Beach High School. ... On Friday, scholars took their voices to the streets as they marched from the John Stanford Center to City Hall on the Day of Social Action, protesting Seattle Public Schools 2.0 mile walk zone. (read more)

Kansas City Church Offers Building, Resources for Freedom School
Mennonite World Review

It’s hard for Rachel Hostetler to pick a favorite story from her seven years with Freedom School, a six-­week, full-­day summer enrichment program held at Rainbow Mennonite Church. She remembered how several years ago, special space was made for two children after their family experienced a tragedy. A few years later, the mother knew two children that wanted to return to Freedom School but had moved, so she went out of her way to help them sign up and provided transportation for them all summer. Another year, a mother who wanted to give back to the program offered to design flyers for a Freedom School fundraiser. 'It gave her experience using the computer,' said Hostetler, executive director of Rainbow’s Freedom School and the community services coordinator for Rainbow Mennonite. 'She was so proud. It was a big deal.' (read more)

Blumenthal Looks to Inspire Freedom School Students by Letting Them Explore Live Theater

On a recent Thursday in uptown Charlotte, 1,100 Freedom School students unloaded from buses and trooped into the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center to see a matinee performance of "Annie," the Tony Award-winning musical. For some, it was their first time attending a Broadway-style show. Reggie Miller of Charlotte was typical. 'I’m excited to see all the action,' said the young African American student. 'I’m really looking forward to seeing the dancing. I never saw the movie or the play.' In an effort to inspire students who otherwise might never see a Broadway musical, Blumenthal Performing Arts has been working with Freedom Schools though a program called "Arts for All." The partnership began in 2013 when Blumenthal hosted about 1,000 Freedom School students for a performance of "The Lion King." (read more)

Freedom School Provides New Hope for Probationary Youth in Alameda County
East Bay Express

When Monica Vaughan said, 'Good morning,' the group of 32 young men seated in the sun-drenched auditorium jumped to their feet. 'Good morning — G-O-O-D M-O-R-N-I-N-G!' they chanted, clapping their hands and stomping their feet. Some of the young men danced. Vaughan laughed, taking the welcome in stride. ... Vaughn [chief of schools for the Alameda County Office of Education] was there as a guest speaker at a special six-week summer reading program at Freedom School at Camp Wilmont Sweeney, a youth probation camp in the hills of San Leandro. ... 'We’re trying to see what’s going to get them to think differently, to want to be different, to want to have an outcome that is different than what the statistics tell them their outcome will be and help them find the spaces they will fit in and that will get them to be where they want to be,' [LaDonna] Harris, [Alameda County Chief Probation Officer,] said. ...The program is organized thematically — this summer, the theme is making a difference. Each week, the students read books and do projects based on themes ranging from making a personal difference to making a difference in the community or the world. (read more)

Freedom Schools: A Year Later  
Ohio Department of Youth Services (7/29/15)

Youth D has much enthusiasm in his voice when he talks about the Freedom Schools program. “It’s fun. It’s motivating. It’s positive,” said the 18-year-old youth from the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility (CHJCF). Since the program was launched at DYS in July 2014, a total of 129 youth have completed the six-week, voluntary program. Many youth are hesitant at first to attend a Freedom Schools session, but by the last day they are inquiring about the dates of the next session. “Freedom Schools allows youth to increase their reading levels by utilizing cheers, chants ‎and team building exercises to create a high energy learning environment,” said Cornelius Lawrence, Site Coordinator of Freedom Schools at Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility (CJCF). DYS launched Freedom Schools last year in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund to enhance existing educational services. Ohio is the first juvenile justice system to offer the program statewide. Jennifer Sanders, Superintendent of Buckeye United Schools, points out that the biggest impact of the Freedom Schools program is in the area of youth behavior. “We have seen a significant increase in positive behavior, while acts of violence have dropped 50-60%,” she said. Youth D, who will be released from DYS in a few weeks, has nothing but praise for the Freedom Schools program. “I’m glad DYS is offering it,” he said. He is interested in working as a Freedom Schools counselor so he can help others.

Unequal Lives

A new report “Unequal Lives: The State of Black Women and Families in the Rural South” details startling new findings. More than 1 in 4 children and nearly as many women live in poverty; the poverty rate is more than double for Blacks and Latinos compared to their White counterparts. The report was produced by the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative that is administered by the Children’s Defense Fund-Southern Regional Office. This should be required reading for all political leaders, philanthropists, and advocates who want to level the playing field for all, particularly for our most vulnerable women and children.


Even if social media is beyond you, we wanted to share CDF’s leadership and coalition partnership work on the vital lifesaving reform of ending solitary confinement in the juvenile justice system. CDF’s work in Ohio has helped to restrict the use of this harsh disciplinary practice that can severely damage youth mental health and sometimes lead to suicide. This month CDF-California joined with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the Youth Justice Coalition to host a #EndYouthSolitary Twitter Chat to educate and advocate for California legislation that would do just that. Ultimately California’s bill did not pass, but CDF never gives up. Please support these lifesaving efforts to end youth solitary in your state.

Do Something Grand

Did you know millions of children across our country rely on their grandparents to provide a safe home and to keep their families together?  More than 5.7 million children are living in households headed by a grandparent or other relative, often three generations sharing scarce resources. These grandparents and relative caregivers are providing vital care, stability and continuity. Close to a million children live with a grandparent with no parent in the home. Join us on September 13, National Grandparents Day, in celebrating these amazing grandparents. Plan something Grand, share success stories of those raised by grandparents and support policies and programs that assist “Grandfamilies” in your community. For action ideas and resources visit

Learn more about the work CDF is doing to support kinship families.

No Hungry Children in America

Rich America should have no hungry children and critically important federal child nutrition legislation, The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, needs to be reauthorized this year. Congress is expected to work on these vital supports for poor and low-income children including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Summer Food Service and Child and Adult Care Food programs when members return in September. CDF will closely monitor congressional activity to ensure adequate funding for these lifelines. Stay tuned for information and requests for action. Read CDF President, Marian Wright Edelman’s written testimony submitted to the Congressionally-mandated National Commission on Hunger for recommendations on the effective use of these existing programs and funds, and how together these supports provide a safety net for America’s most vulnerable children.

Early Learning Opportunity

Join the Children’s Defense Fund, the Educational Testing Service and Sesame Workshop for an inspiring and provocative day of learning and discussion at the National Press Club on September 18, 2015 in Washington, D.C. “Success Starts Young: Closing Achievement Gaps Where They Begin – A National Symposium on Early Learning Standards, Kindergarten Readiness, and Technology and Early Learning” features thought leaders and expert panels with opportunity for robust discussion with participants to foster learning and offer solutions to help close achievement gaps among young children. Register today for this free learning opportunity open to the public.

Summer Interns

We are grateful for the difference all the CDF summer interns made for children over the past three months. Their important contributions helped make our CDF Freedom Schools® national training for 2,000 college students, educators and juvenile justice officers; our Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry for 500 faith leaders, seminarians and child advocates; and many additional CDF policy and communications efforts a huge success. We have high expectations for the newest members of the CDF family and their advocacy for children today and tomorrow.

Mackenzie Cate James Madison University, Senior
Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools® Program Intern

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Interning with CDF Freedom Schools program has empowered and inspired me to continue in my path as a child advocate, I was able to directly serve the scholars in the program and learn effective ways to stand for all children.

Wendy Briggs – Juniata College, Senior
Children's Defense Fund Communications Intern

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I’ve heard a lot about America’s problems, but the CDF is one of the few places where I’ve heard about solutions.

Julia Yao Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, MPH Candidate
Children's Defense Fund Policy Intern

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CDF’s amazing staff gave us the gift of inspiration – after a summer of invaluable learning and conversations, they affirmed that we can truly help shape the world.

Sara Esposito – State University of New York at Geneseo, Senior
Children's Defense Fund Policy Intern

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Within the walls of 25 E Street and beyond the rolling grass of Haley Farm, the love, dedication, and compassion that the Children’s Defense Fund embodies makes it a family.

Marian Wright Edelman’s Child Watch® columns this month focused on how caring adults can make all the difference in the lives of all our children, particularly for our most vulnerable. Each one has actions you can take in your community. Each one highlights the importance of servant leadership.

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Dr. Wayne Frederick on
Servant Leadership


"Wise Lessons in Servant-Leadership from Howard University’s President"

It’s Hard to Be What You Can’t See

The Unthinkable Lives of So Many Black Boys: Where Are the Caring Adults?!

Helping Black Boys Survive: What a Difference a Smile Makes




Thank you for your continued dedication to CDF's Leave No Child Behind® mission.

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