Rhetoric Competition!!!

Hey everyone! As the second half of Freedom Summer 2019 begins, we’re super excited about the upcoming trips and travels for our Freedom Fellows! Fellows’ first taste of the summer travel schedule was last Friday, when they headed to the Rhetoric Competition at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, for a day of fun, friends, and personal achievement.

The Rhetoric Competition has been a staple of Freedom Summer for years now, and Freedom Fellows have prepared all summer for Mock Trial and Speech competitions with the Meridian Freedom Project. While the competition always adds an exciting aspect to the day, the focus was on the Freedom Fellows from both Projects and their opportunities to connect with each other, take on challenges independently, and rise to the occasion.

“Being able to witness both Freedom Projects come together and perform and compete against each other but it still be a friendly environment is always one of the best parts,” Kandace Stevenson, the Director of Experiential Learning and College Access at Sunflower, said. “My favorite part is when the competitions are at a slow point and we have people who aren’t in the final rounds together, they’re able to do games with each Freedom Project. They’re able to talk with each other. They’re able to share chants. They’re able to just build bonds beyond just their location. It becomes a big Freedom Project.”

The Sunflower A team won the Mock Trial Competition overall, and Ms. Rash and Mr. Stanford were awarded for the performances as Top Lawyers. Mr. Harris and Mr. Hall took home honors as Top Witnesses for their ability to stay collected and stick to the case under pressure.

In Speech, Sunflower students showed out, with Ms. Powell, Mr. Sumner, Ms. Higgins, and Mr. McKenzie nabbing the top four spots, in that order. Meanwhile Ms. Jackson (2nd) and Ms. Stevenson (4th) both placed in Literary Interpretation. Ms. Stevenson also placed 2nd in Impromptu alongside Mr. McKinney, who placed 3rd.

We asked the Freedom Fellows how they felt about the competition and how it felt to reach goals they had worked towards all summer.

“I really liked the questions, the questions were fun. Like when they asked me certain questions, it was easy to answer some of them,” Mr. Earvin, a witness on the Sunflower A team, said. “[During cross-examination questions] they asked me about stuff I didn’t even know and I was still able to answer because they taught me how to answer questions I don’t know.”

“I was nervous at first, but then after I kept saying [my speech] I wasn’t nervous,” Ms. Jackson said.

When asked what ran through her head when she first stepped up to give her speech, Ms. Powell said, “A bunch of words that I can’t say.”

On a more personal note, it really was amazing to see Fellows step up and simply own the stage.

Ms. Smith rocked during the final round of Mock Trial, calling out out objections left and right and grilling witnesses on cross-examinations to get them to slip-up in a way that truly demonstrated the confident, intelligent young woman she is.

Ms. Jackson took Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminist” and made it her own, putting a power behind her voice that made the audience want to stop, listen, and stand up and cheer.

Ms. Stevenson focused her energy in such a positive way during her Impromptu speech, with her eagerness and quick thinking really helping her get her ideas across in such a short time in this format.

Mr. Byrd showed real perseverance when his Mock Trial team ran into a situation they hadn’t seen before, and his ability stand up and give his best effort showed true maturity and poise.

Ruth Fetaw, a Rhetoric TA, might have best summed up the Fellows’ performances on Friday.

“They worked so incredibly hard. They were passionate. There are so many different storytellers out there, whether they were doing Mock Trial or Speech, and all of their pieces were beautiful,” she said.

“I just want them to know that we appreciate them, that we love them all, and to keep on working and keep on doing great things.”



A Summer Opps Snapshot

This week, as Freedom Summer begins to enter its second half, we’re focusing in on one of our favorite parts of the Freedom Project: Summers Opps!!!

Summer Opps is short for “Summer Opportunities,” which are chances for Freedom Summer Collegiate students to attend colleges, universities, and elite boarding schools in order to see opportunities available to them. Students apply to summer programs of their choice with the hopes of challenging themselves and trying new things.

“We had to write essays and fill out a bunch of applications, and submit our grades and our teachers had to give recommendations,” Ashton Weeks, a rising tenth grader said.

Many students’ experience during Summer Opps is also one of their first chances to independently travel outside of Mississippi.

“I have to fly by myself, up there, no help, can’t have any adults, no person from the Freedom Project….and it’s my first time flying,” Mr. Weeks said. “I know you can’t bring like water on the plane…but like can we bring Xboxes?”

Phillips-Exeter’s main campus building

Phillips-Exeter’s main campus building

Mr. Weeks, a rising tenth grader, will attend the summer program at Phillips-Exeter, an elite boarding school in New Hampshire. While there he’ll take classes in Psychology and Philosophy, which focus in on the study of euphoria and the nature of humanity, but he said he’s most excited about traveling and experiencing new things.

“I’m going to have a lot of free time, and we can take trips and stuff,” Mr. Weeks said. “I want to visit [all the big cities]….I’m going to explore.”

Vin Darius Thomas shared Mr. Weeks’ sentiments about experiencing new things, although he was less timid about his first flight.

“I’m excited about meeting new people, meeting and getting to know a whole lot of new personalities….I’ve been out of the state before, but people from other countries are going to be there,” Mr. Thomas, a rising tenth grader, said.

Mr. Thomas is attending Explo on the campus of Yale University, along with Kendra Womack, a rising 10th grader. He will take classes in Psychology and Sports & Entertainment while also participating in basketball and football. He is one of many students heading to the Northeast, along with Timesea Ginn and Mr. Weeks among others.

Ms. Ginn will be attending the summer program at Phillips-Andover, another elite boarding school in Massachusetts.

“I’m taking classes and getting the college life,” Ms. Ginn said. “I’m taking Geometry and Play Production….I’m excited for the Play Production class because I like musicals.”

FSC Students in class, including Ms. Ginn in her “Wicked” hoodie, her favorite play that she got to see in person during Summer Opps last summer.

FSC Students in class, including Ms. Ginn in her “Wicked” hoodie, her favorite play that she got to see in person during Summer Opps last summer.

Some students will stay closer to home and attend Summer College at Ole Miss, like MacKenzie Knighten, who will take classes in Forensics.

“I’m really kind of scared of stuff like that but I figured I would give it a try since it was something I couldn’t do before,” Ms. Knighten said.

Many students will get out of their comfort zone, either close to their homes in the Mississippi Delta or miles and miles away, but either way we’re excited to see them take advantage of the opportunity, learn, and grow!!!

This is also only a snapshot of a few of the students who will be attending Summer Opps, so we encourage anyone who knows year-round Freedom Project students to ask them about their Summer Opps and support their hard work!



Service with a Purpose

One focus of Freedom Summer 2019 is community. Throughout the summer, we place emphasis on connections in the Mississippi Delta, the towns and cities Freedom Fellows live in, the black community, and the community within the LEAD Center itself.

The new sign on the highway past Sunflower.

The new sign on the highway past Sunflower.

A vital part of each community is service. We want Freedom Fellows to understand the importance of giving back and the far-reaching effects it can have. For 3 hours each Friday during Freedom Summer, Fellows invest time and hard work in order to better those around them, and in the process, they better themselves.

“Every summer we teach students about the LEAD principles (Love, Education, Action, and Discipline) and it’s crucial for us to put those principles into practice. We strongly believe that education without action is a waste of opportunity. We value our communities here in the Delta and are excited for the opportunity to give back,” SCFP Director Kate Gluckman said.

Fellows have worked in a number of areas so far this summer, and many have given back to the town of Sunflower itself. Some joined Delta Grace to clean, paint, and touch up signs around Sunflower, including the “Welcome to Sunflower” sign that greets people driving down the highway.

“It’s not as easy as it may seem,” Charlize Modley, an eighth grader, said.

Fellows with the old Sunflower sign.

Fellows with the old Sunflower sign.

At the Sunflower City Hall, Fellows painted rooms and cleaned up areas of the building that needed refurbishment.

Other Fellows cleaned up trash and litter in Sunflower and, from simply observing the trash itself, noted the prominence of unhealthy habits suggested by the discarded fast food, soda, and cigarettes.

“We should always keep the city clean and we should go out and start doing some more stuff like that. We always have to be active,” Ja’Mykle Harris, a ninth grader, said.

Mr. Harris picks up trash around Sunflower.

Mr. Harris picks up trash around Sunflower.

One group also traveled to the Drew Public Library and the Indianola Public Library to assist in preparation for an upcoming STEM event by organizing and cutting out decorations.

“I think it was really fun and really nice to help around the community,” seventh grader Marquon McKinney said.

Fellows have experienced two Fridays of community service so far, and we can’t wait to see how their sense of community continues to foster, grow, and develop.



Freedom Summer Collegiate Takes Flight

As Freedom Fellows entered the LEAD Center this week and Freedom Summer 2019 began in full force, many students began another Freedom Project Network program housed in the LEAD Center: Freedom Summer Collegiate! Freedom Summer Collegiate is for rising 10th, 11th, and 12th graders in Sunflower County who have shown and proven their immense potential for achieving and advancing their education.

Professors and doctoral candidates from Harvard, Boston University, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania are teaching classes such as Punishment in the U.S., the Philosophy of Self-Actualization, Neighborhoods, and Police Technologies. Students get the chance to experience focused subjects and wide-open classrooms more commonly found on a university level.

“I like having a chance to learn about different things than you normally would in school,” Ms. Stephanie Robertson, a rising tenth grader, said.

“It gives you a feel of what a college class is really like,” Mr. Vin Darius Thomas, another rising tenth grader, said.

Dr. Parsons June 5.jpg

Classes focus on a variety of subjects and come in all forms and fashions. For example, recently in Neighborhoods, professor Ryan Parsons hosted a class where Mr. Trent “Rocky” Little, a grandson of famed Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, visited to discuss different communities he had been a part of.

“[The students] were great and asked a lot of questions,” Little said, “I really just came to see the energy of the place, but I really, really like what’s going on.”

All of the classes have had exciting topics, events, and activities, such as debates over surveillance in Police Technologies and introductions to the language of logic in the Philosophy of Self-Actualization.

“I'm so excited to be back at Sunflower this summer. It's a privilege to work with these students, and so fun,” Dr. Stephanie Dick said.

Dr. D June 5.JPG

Check out Freedom Summer Collegiate at their website here:

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Hey y’all! Welcome to Freedom Summer 2019! We’re thrilled to welcome more than 70 Freedom Fellows back to the LEAD Center in Sunflower, Mississippi, for another summer packed with reading, mathematics, rhetoric, creative clubs, camping trips, and college visits, all under the theme of Civil Rights and freedom through education for our Fellows.

While students officially arrive on June 3, this past week has been Week 0 for the staff and interns charged with making Freedom Summer successful for the students.

It’s been full of laughter, lesson planning, and learning on both sides of the equation. The interns have gotten to explore the Mississippi Delta, with a little guidance from the teachers and Sunflower County Freedom Project alumni Myesha and Omar, while the staff have received the pleasure of teaching, being patient with, and experiencing the absolutely wonderful faces and practically perfect personalities of the interns. From the creation and progress of Creative Clubs such as Robotics and Art Expression to unruly acting while developing discipline strategies, everyone has been focused, engaged, and excited as they prepare for the arrival of the Freedom Fellows!



The Mildred Downey Scholarship for Educational Travel

The SCFP has the pleasure to announce the Mildred Downey Scholarship for Educational Travel in Ms. Mildred Downey’s honor to send Freedom Summer Collegiate students to Yale University for summer programing.

Ms. Mildred Downey has been an important supporter of the Sunflower County Freedom Project since its inception in 1998. Kate Gluckman described how “before the SCFP ever sang its first song, gave out its first LEAD bead, or made its first PB&J, Mrs. Mildred Downey knew that the students of Sunflower County needed more opportunities than they were getting. She knew the power of education and how freedom can be formed in the classroom.”

In his speech, co-founder Chris Meyers Asch also alluded to Ms. Downey’s support, saying “her ideas about wisdom and character, and the necessity of being firm and sticking to your principles. There is no one like Mrs. Downey, and this Freedom Project would not have lasted twenty days, let alone twenty years without her.” We are so grateful for everything Ms. Downey has contributed to our organization, allowing us to grow into a thriving SCFP community. Thank you miss Downey! 

Contribute to the Educational Travel Fund here: 





Week 2

Hey y'all! Week 1 of Freedom Summer was busy, sweaty, and rewarding. With class discussions and intense basketball games on the slab, Freedom Fellows set the pace for an intense summer. Coming up this week, the Freedom Fellows will run their Monday Mile again, this week trying to improve the time they set on their first try. The Creative Clubs are in full swing, including Fashion, Airplanes, Global Struggles, Social Justice and Rap, and Martial Arts. Freedom Fellows are preparing for their final presentations that will be showcased at the Student Showcase during SCFP's 20th Anniversary Celebration June 22nd. In Rhetoric class, Fellows are beginning to prepare for the Speech and Mock Trial Debates happening at the beginning of July, and students are continuing to work hard in both Reading and Math, learning Civil Rights history and current events through both literature and the study of ratios. 

On rainy Monday mornings it's hard to find energy. But this morning, Freedom Fellows started off the week with an interesting discussion about the original Freedom Summer, Robert "Bob" Moses, and the importance of love in leadership. Although still a bit sleepy from the weekend, we're all pumped to start Week 2!! Updates to come! 



B.B. King Museum

As a part of the "How Do We Respond to Music" class in the Freedom Summer Collegiate program, Freedom Fellows traveled to the B.B. King Museum this afternoon. Students wandered through the museum with the question: "How did life in the Delta influence B.B. King's music?" on their minds. Afterwards, Professor Zitzow-Childs gathered the Freedom Fellows to discuss. The Fellows discussed how B.B. King's sense of community from his church background influenced his ensemble of musicians, how the reflection of struggle in his music allowed a range of listeners to identify with it, and how music can be a form of refuge, especially in connection to the life in the Delta. Fellows enjoyed mixing their own music in the recording studios, and got to visit B.B. King's grave! A great field trip with the Summer Collegiate Freedom Fellows. 





This week, Seventh Grade Freedom Fellows started off strong by learning about the culture of the SCFP: L.E.A.D. values (Love, Education, Action, and Discipline), ran their first Monday Mile, and were stars in Rhetoric, Reading, and Math.  In Reading, students are reading Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry or Ghost Boys. In math, they're applying ratio lessons to understanding more of the inner workings of the education system in the Delta, and in Rhetoric they are finding their voices through introductions to public speaking in mock debates, persuasive writing, and even raps. 


Monday Mile 

Mr. Dennis runs alongside Ms. Kern during the Monday Mile. The kids braved the heat to complete their first mile as a baseline for progress and cutting down their running time during the duration of Freedom Summer.

studios children.jpg


Mr. Coleman and Mr. Perkins read Gathering of Old Men and Dear Martin in Mr. Van Horn's class. Freedom Fellows are learning about the Black Lives Matter movement and the Civil Rights Movement through literature.