About the Program

The Children’s Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. The CDF Freedom Schools model incorporates the totality of the Children’s Defense Fund’s mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference.

In 2013, its first year of operation, Rockin’ Cool Freedom School served 46 children in Kindergarten through fifth grade at one location -- Northridge Middle School. As we come into our eleventh year of Freedom School, we have served over 700 scholars and their families, and in 2024 our expectation is that we will serve up to 130 students at three different locations around central and northwest Licking County.

The target population is children who have completed Kindergarten through 8th grade in the Northridge Local, Johnstown-Monroe, and Newark City School Districts and surrounding areas. We give priority to students who are recommended by teachers and principals because of an academic, socio-economic or emotional need. The goal of the program is to help high-risk children stem summer learning loss, fall in love with learning, and to teach them that they can make a difference. Additionally, the program trains and develops young adult leaders who deliver the program to the scholars.

The day begins with breakfast and a morning group gathering called “Harambee” where scholars (the children) and staff sing a motivational song, hear a story read by a community member, and perform various cheers and dancing. Each morning the scholars participate in an integrated reading curriculum in groups of 10 and then have a quiet individual reading time (Drop Everything And Read). The afternoons are filled with games, crafts, science projects, field trips, and service projects all centered on the theme of building the scholars to believe that they can make a positive difference in the world around them. The program will run for six weeks in the 2024 summer, from June 10th through July 19th, from 8am – 3pm each day, Monday through Friday (except Thursday, July 4th and Friday, July 5).