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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

This upcoming week will be the first full week of Freedom School classes! Our first week in Duke Engage was primarily spent in Knoxville, TN, at the national training for Freedom School. The training involved a variety of sessions about classroom management, team-building, mock presentations of lesson plans, and other tools for the summer. However our week in Knoxville was unique because it opened my eyes to the reality of the movement intertwined with Freedom School. The Children’s Defense Fund is behind the creation of Freedom Schools, which serves as an extension of its mission to decrease the education gap and combat today’s terrifying dropout rates. We heard remarkable speakers who testified to the importance of understanding our history in order to make a legitimately positive difference in education. We also heard from prominent educators, who use a variety of methods to engage the students, from hip-hop pedagogy. Additionally, we were blessed to experience the story of a woman who participated in the Children’s March in Montgomery, Alabama when she was a child and then spent months in jail. Singing the Freedom School motivational song, “Something Inside So Strong”, with 3,000 people multiple times a day was a surreal experience because of how bonded we all became, despite our diverse backgrounds and experiences. The most significant part of this week for me was that it really opened my eyes to how necessary organizations like Freedom School are from a civil rights standpoint.

The week in Knoxville was very motivating but exhausting, and I was ready to return home to Emma and Maggie! After my first two days with my Level 2 students, I can say I am feeling very positive about the rest of my summer! I work at Shalom Park, and am blessed by the help of the remarkable staff, my very kind and organized site coordinator and assistant site coordinator, and the inspiring other interns. The first two days certainly had various trials and tribulations, from the motivational song skipping on the cd the first day, to just learning how to manage my scholars in the classroom and keep them engaged. I chose Zootopia for my theme, and I have the privilege of spending the next six weeks with a group of very kind, joyful 3-5 graders. Already on the second day my relationships with my scholars were better, and I am so excited to keep strengthening these connections, and help them experience the joys and confidence that reading can bring!