A SIX YEAR COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE
A SIX YEAR COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE
For the next three summers, and six academic years, they engage in programming that expands their minds, their bodies, and their aspirations. For each Freedom Fellow, this journey ends (and begins anew) at college.
Before joining the Freedom Project, students and parents must sign a Commitment to LEAD in which they pledge to uphold the four LEAD principles that underlie all Freedom Project activities. These principles apply to the organization’s staff and leadership as well.
We build long-term, caring relationships with our students because we believe that they are valuable human beings with tremendous potential who deserve the same educational opportunities as any other children in America.
We challenge students with rigorous academic activities because we believe that they can achieve at high levels and that genuine academic achievement will open opportunities for them in the future.
We encourage students to act to make the world a better place because we believe that individual achievement without social responsibility can undermine communities and is a tragic waste of potential.
We emphasize personal responsibility and self-discipline because we believe that developing strong character is the highest achievement.
The purpose of Freedom Summer is to expand our students' concepts of what it means to be a leader and a motivated student. We push our students academically, socially, and physically. Freedom Summer is difficult, hot, and life-changing.
For most of our students, Freedom Summer is their entry point into the Freedom Project and their introduction to the fellowship. Programming includes five weeks of intensive academic instruction in reading, math and rhetoric for our 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students. Freedom Fellows spend each afternoon in art class, in the Freedom Garden, and working out during fitness programming. We end our summer with two camping trips to civil rights sites and one week spent on the campus of the University of Mississippi in a college-immersion experience.
"Education is the seed of Freedom.” This belief is what matters to us most. Our students receive academic support because our fundamental mission is to empower each student with the skills to to be leaders.
Freedom Fellows receive help finishing homework, completing projects, and studying for tests during study sessions four nights per week. On Tuesdays, Fellows take a reading/writing course in which students read novels and articles that challenge their concept of freedom and identity. On Saturdays, our high school students prepare for the ACT with math and English lessons.
During Freedom Summer, Fellows complete five weeks of core academic classes designed to prepare them for the next grade. These classes are taught by college interns who receive extensive training and support from our staff. Students take math, language arts, and rhetoric classes.
The Freedom Project is not designed to merely “keep young people off the streets.” Our rigorous focus on academics ensures that students can not only succeed in their local schools, but are able to compete with their peers nationwide.
At the Freedom Project we believe arts are a powerful way to share the history of the civil rights movement as well as express our ideas for change. We engage our students in the arts through our visual arts, drama troupe, hip-hop club, and the literary magazine.
Freedom Fellows learn to express themselves through various media in our visual art classes. Students paint, sculpt, draw, and design pieces of art while sharing their identity, hopes, fears, and ideas.
Freedom Fellows have the opportunity to share their knowledge of the freedom struggle in Mississippi through the Sunflower Freedom Troupe. The Troupe performs original plays written by Freedom Fellows and staff. Every year they take a performance tour around the country, traveling to places such as Houston, Austin, and Dallas. They have performed five original plays:
The Drama Troupe also performs original student monologues and student-written plays.
Once a week our hip-hop club meets to write lyrics, make beats, and record songs. A regular feature at open-mic nights and talent shows, our MCs use hip-hop to share their inner thoughts with their peers.
Every year Unspoken's editorial board asks for submissions of poetry, rap, short stories and artwork from all middle-school and high school students in Sunflower County. After carefully reviewing each piece, they select the best to publish in our annual book. Unspoken is a unique opportunity for young writers and authors to be published and share their work with peers across the county.
To gain exposure to the world around them, Fellows go on at least eight major trips each year. During the summer, we travel to Ole Miss to experience college life for one week. We also take our summer program on two separate camping trips to civil rights monuments throughout the south.
Over Thanksgiving Break, we go on a three-day camping trip to a major college destination. Also in the fall, we go on two gender-specific camping retreats for group building exercises and more college visits.
During Spring Break, we go on a week-long drama tour to perform an original civil rights-based play for audiences throughout Texas.
Finally, at the end of each year, we take a group of students on an intense backpacking trip, affectionately known as the “hardcore trip.” Together, we have climbed mountains in Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas!
Sunflower County has some of the worst health statistics in the country. According to the CDC:
Poor diet is a major contributing factor in these health outcomes, and the lack of access to healthy, fresh food plays a significant role in determining the diets of adults and children.
At the Freedom Project, we use our Sunflower Freedom Garden as a hands-on learning platform to build awareness and change around the food habits of our Freedom Fellows. Our weekly Garden Club includes three core components that we believe are key to developing the next generation of healthy eaters and cultivators: science and health lessons, hands-on gardening activities and healthy cooking.
After developing a love for fresh, tasty, local food, we get our Freedom Fellows up and moving! Every week, our students participate in an hour of fun fitness class. Activities range from capture the flag to circuit training, but the goal's the same: to sweat and have fun!