Baylor School of Education Freedom School Offers Opportunities for Summer Enrichment and Civic Engagement

June 14, 2017

Media contact: Tonya B. Lewis, (254) 710-4656

WACO, Texas (June 14, 2017) – Fifty rising 6th and 7th-grade students from the Waco Independent School District will attend the first Baylor University School of Education-sponsored Children’s Defense Fund® Freedom School from June 14 through July 28 at Cesar Chavez Middle School.

The CDF Freedom School model has deep roots in civic engagement that go back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Today the program serves to connect students and their families to their local communities, encourage family and community involvement, empower children through literacy and reduce summer learning loss.

Throughout the program, the Freedom School Scholars will participate in community service, participate in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) activities and create a project for the National Day of Social Action focusing on eradicating childhood hunger and poverty.

At part of the Freedom School experience, Scholars will make pom-pom launchers, build and race model cars, create papier-mâché boats, produce a play, attend weekly swimming lessons and participate in a basketball camp. In addition, Scholars will attend field trips to the Mayborn Museum and Waco Mammoth National Monument.

Lakia M. Scott, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum and instruction in the Baylor School of Education, and executive director of Baylor’s Freedom School, said in addition to the numerous activities for the scholars, they will participate in daily Harambee sessions where they sing and dance before starting their day.

“Harambee, which means ‘let’s pull together’ in Swahili, allows students to sing, dance and motivate themselves and each other each day. In July, Scholars from the H.Y.P.E. Freedoms Schools in Houston will join us for the largest Harambee session in Texas. We will be in unison as we focus on working together to grow academically and improve our communities,” Scott said.

Parents and families also will have a role in Baylor’s Freedom School by participating in weekly workshops focused on furthering the educational and social development of their children.

In 2015, Scott examined eight Freedom School sites in Texas and noted their impact on their communities.

“From my findings from the site visits as well as my other professional experiences with the Freedom School model, it was evident that the program was making a difference in the lives of students by providing safe spaces for them to discuss community issues while also encouraging civic engagement and social responsibility,” Scott said. “In addition, evaluation measures proved that participation in the program reduced students’ summer learning loss and, in most cases, increased students’ reading fluency and comprehension skills.”

As part of the program, Baylor School of Education pre-service teachers will work as Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) and serve children from a cultural, racial and ethnic background that differs from their own, Scott said.

“The Servant Leader Interns will serve as teachers and provide high-quality academic enrichment by using the Freedom Schools’ Integrated Reading Curriculum, which melds together culturally relevant literature and critical thinking through engaging lesson plans and hands-on activities,” Scott said. “The young men and women who work as SLIs are chosen especially because they are role models for the Scholars. We want Scholars to learn from SLIs and become leaders in their communities as well and possibly serve in other Freedom Schools when they become older.”

Highlights of the Baylor School of Education Freedom School:

• Weekly YMCA Swim Safety lessons
• Weekly field trip to Baylor University
• Daily Harambee session with cheers, chants and motivational songs
• Daily Read-A-Loud Guest Readers
• July 19: National Day of Social Action
• July 21: Largest Harambee in Texas with students from H.Y.P.E. Freedom Schools in Houston
• July 28: Program Finale where Scholars share what they learned in the program


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.