In college, Alfreca Howard’s major was Africana Studies. Since then she has fully embraced her culture and does everything she can to make sure her 11-year-old son, Ausar, knows and understands Black history. So when she came across a literacy and cultural enrichment program that kept the legacy of civil rights leader and human rights activist Ella Baker alive, she knew her son had to be a part of it.
“Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® reinforces the values and cultural foundation that I have instilled in my son,” Howard said. “We are in alignment and it feels so good. We are speaking a common language.”
For Howard, the CDF Freedom Schools climate is much needed to contrast the very different experiences children get in public schools, where often Black and Brown youth are set up to fail with low expectations and practices that dehumanize them.
Despite the family’s multiple relocation across Los Angeles County, Howard has made sure that Ausar has stayed in the program. In fact, he has been to three different sites in the past five summers. And even though each experience has been different, all have been great. “Everywhere you go, you can see the love for these children and the purpose. They create this phenomenal team that is geared toward the CDF Freedom Schools purpose,” she said. “It was just good experience after good experience. It didn’t matter which site we were at, the people were always great.”
Howard loves all five components of the CDF Freedom Schools program —— the high quality academic enrichment; parent and family development; civic engagement and social action; inter-generational servant leadership development; and nutrition, health and mental health. But her favorite parts of a typical CDF Freedom Schools day, she said, are the meditation the scholars do to begin their day, the motivational read aloud guests that show students that they can be great and the books with characters that look like them.
While Howard had many words to describe the program and the impacts, her son’s remarks were very brief and simple, “I just really like it,” Ausar said.