Freedom School kicks off at International School at Gregory

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 2:45 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - This week 50 students are headed back to classrooms for Communities in School’s Freedom School.

The students range from third to eighth grade and are in the program for six weeks, gaining access to mentors, academic help and resources like free meals and books to build their home libraries. Transportation is also provided by New Hanover County Schools.

Kids are placed in small groups and get help with reading and hear lessons on civic engagement, leadership development, nutrition and mental health.

“The heart of Freedom School is just letting our scholars know they can make a difference in their families, in themselves, in their communities, in the nation, in the world, ”said site coordinator Keisha Robinson. “The real thing we’re trying to do is make sure our scholars have relationships with caring adults that are gonna be there for them, that are going to push them to greatness.”

Freedom School stems from the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964 and encourages kids to gain a deeper understanding of their self worth and how they can make a difference in their families and their community.

While its taken the group time to implement the program model in Wilmington, leaders say its launch couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It feels fitting. Its time. Freedom School was made when it was time, it was made when enough was enough and so this is perfect. Its perfect to bring our scholars back to school, its perfect to enrich them and let them to form their own opinions about what’s going on in the world and how they can be a part of the change,” said site coordinator Keisha Robinson.

Marrio Jeter, the executive director of Freedom School, says just a month before Communities in Schools walked the grounds of Charlotte’s Freedom School, a man was shot and killed half a block away from the group’s community center. The victim, Sayvor Cromartie, was a past participant in Communities in Schools.

“We had seen the ravages of violence and poverty in our community and it was becoming overwhelming and that hit really close to home,” said Jeter. “It was something we really needed. When we saw the model in action, the kids in their exuberance, and they’re learning, they’re engaged, we knew it was something we needed to help the healing process.”

Oftentimes the most beautiful things grow from adversity. Jeter says its not by chance that Wilmington’s launch happened as the nation is experiencing loud calls for social and racial justice and battling through a pandemic.

“Anything coincidence is just God remaining anonymous. Its not coincidental all these things are happening and Freedom School was in its inception and we’re launching the way we are. I think it’s the convergence of social action that’s needed as well as equity in resources as well. Its more of an outpouring from the community at large that wants to see the success of Freedom School,” added Jeter.

According to New Hanover County Schools, the program is taking every precaution from the CDC and working with the county health department to put COVID-19 protections in place, including spacing students, conducting health screenings and providing masks.

Please email or call 910-777-7397 to learn about volunteer opportunities.

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