For six weeks this summer, children from the HOPE Village area of Detroit learned the meaning of Harambee, or "let’s pull together," as they gathered for the inaugural Focus: HOPE Village Freedom School program. Conducted in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund, HOPE Village Freedom School is based on a national model to promote literacy and academic success. The program ensures that each child receives a "healthy start, head start, fair start, safe start and moral start." Each morning begins with Harambee time, when song, dance, cheers, chants, reading and reflection come together to get students excited and ready to learn before they head to their classroom programs.
"Harambee is an amazing time. We engage learners of all styles. We sing songs, we do dances, we’re spelling...all in the name of fun and education. The two aren’t mutually exclusive," says Claricha Evans, project director for HOPE Village Freedom School. “Not only do we see reading gains…we also see students whose attitudes towards reading change. We read a book every day and at the end of each week they go home with a book.”
Education is a key focus area of ITC’s Charitable Giving Program. A grant from the program gave Focus HOPE the final funding piece needed to launch HOPE Village Freedom School in June.
"Supporting the HOPE Village Freedom School is an investment in our children’s future and the communities we serve," says Donna Zalewski, director of community affairs for ITC. “The program is establishing a strong foundation for learning and literacy at an early age, which is so critical.”
"HOPE Village Freedom School fits so well with HOPE’s mission," says Stephanie Moore, project lead for HOPE Village Freedom School. The goal of the HOPE Village Initiative "is to create a pipeline of support for area children so that by 2031, 100 percent of our residents are economically self-sufficient, educationally well prepared and living in a safe and supportive environment. Village Freedom School is the first segment in that pipeline."