The Wake Forest University Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School is a free six-week, literacy-based summer program for rising third through eighth-grade students. Through a culturally diverse curriculum, Freedom School encourages a love of reading and learning. With a theme of “I Can Make A Difference,” the Integrated Reading Curriculum affirms scholars with engaging literature and exposure to the broader community.

In classrooms of 10-12, college-aged students are hired to teach and mentor Freedom School scholars. Additionally, during the six-week instruction, parents of scholars are encouraged to be engaged in their child’s learning through informational meetings in the summer and multiple volunteer opportunities.

Spots for the annual summer program fill quickly. If you are interested in enrolling your child in the Freedom School at Wake Forest for subsequent years, please add your name to the waitlist.

Wake Forest University Freedom School is hosted by the Department of Education and is made possible with the help of collaborators including The Office of Civic & Community Engagement, Office of the President, and Office of the Provost

About Freedom School

  • What is Freedom School?

    The CDF Freedom Schools model, empowers youth to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves, their families, communities, country, and the world with hope, education, and action.

    Rooted in the Mississippi Freedom Summer project of 1964, the CDF Freedom Schools program has historically and continues to be apart of the Black Community Crusade for Children®. The CDF Freedom Schools program is a six-week summer literacy and cultural enrichment program designed to serve children and youth in grades K–12 in communities where quality academic enrichment programming is limited, too expensive, or non-existent. By partnering with schools, faith and community-based organizations, municipalities, colleges and universities, and juvenile detention facilities, CDF Freedom Schools are able to offer the program in those communities at no-cost.

    CDF Freedom School believes in an intergenerational leadership model. That’s why the program is staffed primarily by college students and recent college graduates, with a 10:1 child-to-adult ratio. As a result, many children and youth make significant gains in reading achievement and don’t experience any summer learning loss.

  • What is the Freedom School program?

    The CDF Freedom Schools program enhances children’s motivation to read and makes them feel good about learning. At the same time, the program connects families to the right resources in their communities. Freedom School students engage in a research-based, multicultural Integrated Reading Curriculum that supports them and their families through five essential components:

    • High quality academic enrichment
    • Parent and family development
    • Civic engagement and social action
    • Intergenerational servant leadership development
    • Nutrition, health and mental health

    Students also receive two nutritious meals and a snack daily, as well as a book each week to build their home libraries.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is eligible to attend the WFU Freedom School?

    Any third through eighth-grade student in Winston Salem is eligible to attend Freedom School. Wake Forest Aramark & Budd Group Service workers and returning Freedom School scholars and siblings are prioritized.

  • What are the requirements for families?

    Wake Forest Freedom School is free. Students must maintain good attendance (no more than three absences). In addition, parents/guardians are required to attend at least four-of-six parent meetings or ensure a family representative over 18 is in attendance. Failure to comply with these requirements will affect enrollment the following summer. 

  • When does the registration begin for Freedom School?

    Registration for Freedom School begins in February for returning families and siblings. Children/Families who maintain their eligibility are invited to register first. 

    New scholar registration begins in mid-March. Vacant spots are filled with scholars from the waiting list based on the order in which they signed up.

  • What does a day at Freedom School look like?
    • 8:00-8:30 a.m.: Breakfast with children and staff
    • 8:30-9:00 a.m.: “Harambee!”
    • 9:00-10:30 a.m.: Integrated Reading Curriculum Reading, Conflict Resolution, Social Action
    • 10:30-10:45 a.m.: Morning Break
    • 10:45-11:45 a.m.: Integrated Reading Curriculum (Part 2)
    • 11:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m.: D.E.A.R. Time (Drop Everything And Read)
    • 12:00-1:00 p.m.: Lunch with children
    • 1:00-3:00 p.m.: Afternoon activities
    • 3:00 p.m.: Dismissal
    • 3:30 p.m.: Daily debrief meeting (Staff)
  • What is the Integrated Reading Curriculum?

    IRC-Stands for Integrated Reading Curriculum. The curriculum each week focuses on making a difference in myself, in my family, in my community, in my country, and in my world. The last week’s theme is making a difference “with hope, education, and action.”

    Selected by a nationwide panel of educators, family therapists, sociologists, and social workers, the books must meet the following criteria:

    • Are developmentally appropriate.
    • Lend themselves to a range of interesting, creative activities.
    • Relate authentic history, culture, and heritage through the eyes of teens and children.
    • Introduce people of all ages who have made a difference in the lives of others.
    • Encourage young people to involve themselves in community service, no matter their circumstances.
    • Help children explore fundamental issues related to self-esteem.
    • Expand their capacity to dream and to believe that they can make a difference.