Baylor’s School of Education hosted a group of middle and high school students from Fort Worth’s Freedom School at Community Missionary Baptist Church. The visit in July was a result of research being conducted by Lakia Scott, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.
A discussion panel of Baylor students highlighted a full day of tours and events. The Baylor students encouraged Freedom School students to identify who they wanted to be and to strive for a higher education.
“We brought in an African American male panel with representation from different majors,” Scott said. “It was a really intriguing conversation. I think it was important that they heard about these students’ experiences.”
Baylor accounting senior Staylen Roach was one of four students, each of whom shared his journey to Baylor, experiences as an African-American man at a predominantly white university, and how students should be preparing now for college.
Roach said, “I told the students, ‘Whatever you want to do, identify it. Identify who you want to be, identify what you want to have out of life. From there, identify what path you can choose to get you to your passion.’”
Afterward, Freedom School students asked questions about college life and socialized with the panel over Dr Pepper floats.
The Freedom School at Community Missionary Baptist Church is the only Freedom School with an all-male population. Rooted in the Civil Rights Movement and sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Freedom Schools are summer and after-school literacy programs that offer children educational resources outside of school they might not have access to otherwise.
The program also curbs summer learning loss by using reading curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant. In the summer of 2015, CDF Freedom Schools served over 12,375 children at 189 program sites in 29 states.
The Freedom School students’ visit began with a campus tour, and Penland Crossroads provided lunch. Suzanne Nesmith, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate education in Baylor’s School of Education, and Elizabeth D. Palacios, Ph.D., dean for student development at Baylor, spoke with the students about pursuing college. The students also visited Dawson Hall, where they learned about university living. Their trip concluded with a guided tour around McLane Stadium.
The relationship between the Freedom School at Community Missionary Baptist Church and Baylor started the previous summer. Scott spent her summer sabbatical researching and visiting seven Freedom Schools and forming connections within the program. This summer, both Scott and Venegas attended national Freedom School training from the Children’s Defense Fund in Tennessee. They learned about the program, the curriculum and talked with leaders of Freedom School sites around the country.
Venegas said, “There were about 3,000 people who attended the training. Freedom Schools typically work with lower income, minority children who are considered ‘at-risk.’ It was great to see so many people who are passionate about working with these children.”
Scott brought Baylor’s iEngage Summer Civics Institute to the Freedom School at Community Missionary Baptist Church in June under the direction of Karon LeCompte, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Scott also hosted a college readiness session with the students.
“This summer presented a unique opportunity for iEngage collaboration because every year, Freedom Schools participate in a National Day of Social Action,” Scott said . “It seemed only fitting that the tenets of the iEngage program be incorporated in order for students to have a more concrete understanding of their civic rights and ways in which they can advocate for issues within their community.”
Inspired by Freedom Schools across America, Scott hopes to eventually start a Freedom School in Waco. She believes the program is capable of offering abundant educational opportunities to upcoming generations.
— By Molly Meeker
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