Singing, stomping, and self-confidence fill the walls of Bethel Baptist Church. Not something you'd expect from a summer school. The school's executive director Norma Davis loves watching her students excel and exude confidence.
"Some of the ones that you would never imagine getting involved are now so involved in harambee, not only are they more participatory, but in their engagement with others and adults, you can just see them start to blossom."
It's a struggle to get some students to study during the school year, let alone during the summer. But the Children's Defense Fund has brought Freedom Schools back to Cincinnati. The Bethel Baptist Church's Freedom School is giving at-risk students books and a boost for free.
"Our goal in the program is for our children to do very well in school and become future leaders. Not only break the pipeline, the school to prison pipeline that we hear so much about, but modeling for our young people," Davis said.
"A lot of these kids come and they have mental scars, emotional scars. What we want to do is take that identity of where they came from and transform it. That's why everything is based around positivity and love, said Site Coordinator Dev Bailey.
Four local Freedom Schools just kicked off this summer. Bailey worked at a Dayton freedom School for three years. Although the program focuses on reading and writing, Bailey says students leave with more than just a love for literature.
"My first year as an intern was like Christmas morning. I couldn't wait to get back. And that was crazy. I hadn't had that feeling since maybe I was a child. I could not wait to get up and get back to work," Bailey said.
Bailey is amazed at how much his new students have grown, and not by height.
"What we do is we meet them at their level. We're not too cool to jump around and scream and shout. We have to get on their level because that gets them to open up. They open up on a personal level, kind of like a family," Bailey said.
This family is definitely not too cool to be free.
- Stephanie Woods