Freedom Summer Every May, we have six to nine college interns come to Sunflower to help teach reading, rhetoric and math to 50 7th, 8th and 9th grade students. Fellows read civil rights-based novels; they take drama, dance, or art; and they participate in fitness every day! Fellows run the mile every Monday during the summer. Students also go on camping trips to Selma and Birmingham (7th + 8th graders) and Little Rock and Memphis (9th graders). We end our summer with a week-long immersive experience at the University of Mississippi and our Ole Miss interns highlight their college campus.
Core Academic Support Our program is rooted in the belief that "education is the seed of freedom" and our students deserve the best education. Each day our staff tutors students during study session. Our Fellows participate in Novel Studies, where middle school students read four extra novels, and high school students read two more novels, than their peers each year. Our high school students begin preparing for college in 9th grade: applying to summer opportunities at Yale, Phillips Exeter and Phillips Andover and working with staff to take challenging courses. We also provide ACT Prep classes for students both in the school year and summer.
Character Development Throughout the year, our Freedom Fellows work on developing into socially-conscious leaders. From maintaining eye contact, to having a firm handshake, our Fellows know how important it is to make a good impression and to continuously work on being a strong leader. We also have a Student Council where members are elected leaders that help students with conflict resolution through peer mediation and restorative justice techniques.
Health Training Being healthy in the Mississippi Delta is extremely difficult - access to fresh foods is limited and sidewalks almost nonexistent. We work with students at least once a week doing fitness or working in the Freedom Garden. We have a Food Club that is rooted in healthy eating and food justice. Freedom Fellows also know that only "LEAD foods" - or healthy foods - are acceptable to eat in building. That means no soda, candy or junk food!
Educational Travel If you ask Freedom Fellows what they're favorite part of the program is, most are likely to say "the trips!" You will find our vans travelling across the mid-south to provide students with rich and meaningful experiences wherever we go. Each year, we visit area colleges. In the fall, we have a girls’ lock-in and a boys’ camping trip. We reverse these trips in the spring – the girls go camping and the boys have a lock-in. Our Thanksgiving Trip has taken us to Atlanta, Urbana-Champaign, IL, and Berea, KY, and we visit Texas each year during spring break.
Arts Enrichment Although public schools have been forced to cut enrichment programs, we fully believe that arts are integral to a young person’s development. Our Fellows can participate in Drama, which culminates in a week-long drama tour to Houston, Dallas and Austin, TX in the spring. We also offer Hip-Hop, speech & debate, and visual arts. Our students write and publish a Literary Magazine every year.
Lukendric Washington is a 2007 SCFP graduate and the first Freedom Fellow to attend law school! He received his Bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a degree in tax law from Florida A&M, and a masters of law from the University of Miami. He first became interested in law when Shawn Raymond, Sunflower co-founder, took Luke around to see his own practice. The Freedom Project inspired Lukendric to be himself and reach beyond his own boundaries. He hopes to one day open his own practice in Mississippi and protect low-income clients from violations of due process, something he became aware of growing up in the Delta. The most valuable advice he says he could give to current Freedom Fellows is to stick with the program no matter what.
Primus Apolonio graduated from the Freedom Project in 2014 and he is currently studying Strength and Conditioning at Henderson State University. During his time as a Freedom Fellow he has participated in all aspects of the program including drama performances/tours, and a summer internship in Washington D.C. He is now working as an AmeriCorp VISTA Summer Associate for the Freedom Project focusing on healthy eating and gardening. The Freedom Project encouraged Primus to be more outspoken and to display his leadership skills not only in his community but wherever he goes. From his many experiences with the program, he says that the Freedom Project is more than just an after-school/summer program, but it is an opportunity to get a perspective of the world outside of Mississippi and to gain the necessary skills needed to be successful.
Kenyon King graduated from the Freedom Project in 2012 and studied Finance and International Business at American University. Kenyon devotes his drive to explore internationally to the Freedom Project, which exposed him to the world beyond the Mississippi Delta, a rare experience for students his age. Lao-tzu's famous quote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." was a permanent fixture at Sunflower during Kenyon's time as a Freedom Fellow, and such values have remained with him still as he progressed through his college career and now as a young professional. He urges current Freedom Fellows to stay open-minded to new experiences and to welcome opportunities to reach beyond their comfort zone.
LaToysha Brown grew up in Indianola, graduated from the SCFP in 2014, and currently attends the University of Southern Mississippi. She is majoring in sociology with a minor in Black studies with the hopes of working to combat educational inequality in the MS Delta. For LaToysha, the SCFP created a safe environment where she was able to openly express her womanist, Pan Africanist, and Black Nationalist beliefs. She was able to develop as a social justice activist and successful leader. The SCFP also provided performing arts opportunities for LaToysha, which were not available at her school. She was heavily involved in drama, discovered poetry and fell deeply in love with both. Ms. Brown was able to travel and see different worlds outside of the MS Delta with the Freedom Project, which broaden her understanding of economic and the social systems. When LaToysha was asked to sum up her SCFP experience, she reflects and says, "I would not have had the chance to have an in-depth learning experience if it was not for the SCFP"
Every year, we graduate a cohort of 4-5 high school seniors and help them in their college application process - which truly began six years earlier when they first joined the Freedom Project. With a full-time staff of three, we serve 35-40 students per night. Below is a list of all of the Freedom Fellows who have graduated with the SCFP.
Christopher Perkins, Class of 2006: Berea College
Jasmine Harvey, Class of 2006: Berea College
Rokeshia Ross, Class of 2006: Rust College
Candace Durn, Class of 2006: Mississippi State University
Arquavious Gordon, Class of 2008: Louisiana State University
Cornesha Ward, Class of 2008: Howard University
Corey Johnson, Class of 2008: Jackson State University
Bryan Tucker, Class of 2008: Northwest Community College
Shaquille Leflore, Class of 2009: University of Southern Mississippi
April Hannah, Class of 2009: University of Southern Mississippi
Antonio Johnson, Class of 2009: Mississippi State University
Jockquelene Ward, Class of 2009: Mississippi Valley State University
Yolanda Durn, Class of 2009: Mississippi Delta Community College
Fredrick Hannah, Class of 2010: Bellhaven University
Amberly Dennis, Class of 2010: Mississippi State University
Lasonja Johnson, Class of 2011: Mississippi State University
Jalishia Tyler, Class of 2011: Mississippi State University
Shawneequa Powell, Class of 2011: Mississippi Delta Community College
Shavondria Washington, Class of 2011: University of Southern Mississippi
Shiega Griffin, Class of 2011: Jackson State University
Michael Burse, Class of 2011: Mississippi Valley State University
Laquita Minton, Class of 2011: Alabama Community College
Olivia Sykes, Class of 2011: Mississippi Valley State University
Shamira Weeks, Class of 2011: Mississippi Valley State University
Kenyon King, Class of 2012: American University
Mykia Clayton, Class of 2013: Elon University
Bre Lewis, Class of 2014: University of Memphis
Ashanique Johnson, Class of 2014: Delta State University
LaToysha Brown, Class of 2014: University of Southern Mississippi
Primus Apolonio, Class of 2014: Henderson State University
Kentrivious Cooper, Class of 2016: Serving in the Army
Breyanna Hooper, Class of 2016: Mississippi University for Women
Rodarius Turner, Class of 2016: Mississippi Valley State University