The What and When

Oakland Freedom Schools (OFS) is a six-week summer literacy program that uses culturally relevant literature and curriculum to engage young people, primarily African American youth, in developing positive self and community identity. With a 10:1 classroom ratio, the program provides breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks, bi-weekly field trips, special Friday events and 150 minutes of academic literacy instruction daily.

Founded in 1995 by the Children’s Defense Fund’s Black Community Crusade for Children® (BCCC) initiative and today coordinated nationally by the Children’s Defense Fund, Lincoln’s Oakland Freedom Schools (OFS) program is a direct service initiative. Using multicultural role models, community guests who share personal stories of making a difference, cooperative games, and activities for critical thinking, OFS scholars gain confidence and skills to curb summer achievement gap and strengthen their school-year performance.

The OFS program is an educational and cultural enrichment program. OFS serve scholars ages 5 to 14 for six weeks facilitating an Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC), STEAM activities, conflict resolution, and social action in an activity-based curriculum that promotes social, cultural, and historical awareness. Built around the theme “I Can Make a Difference in Myself, My Family, My Community, My Country and My World with Hope, Action and Education,” OFS provides a literacy-rich, culturally-inspiring curriculum in which scholars learn to love to read.

The Who and Where

OFS aims to serve 200 youth from the Oakland community. This year we will have two Level 1-3 sites (ages 5-13), one at Markham Elementary School and one at West Oakland Middle School. We will have one Level 4 site (ages 14-18 and/or grades 9-12) at McClymonds High School in West Oakland.

The How

Using college aged staff as classroom teachers, OFS inspires a love of reading while strengthening young people’s self-esteem and sense of community through rich cultural engagement and exciting programs and activities, using an integrated literacy curriculum that supports academic learning outcomes that meet the common core literacy standards. Additionally, OFS provides enrichment activities in STEM, dance, music, art, civic engagement, sports and fitness activities; weekly parent education workshops, and social action projects.

Where We Make a Difference

  • Summer Achievement Gap -​The academic achievement gap has been documented to widen during idle summer months in reading proficiency, disproportionately leaving students of color at a disadvantage. This is addressed in OFS through the culturally relevant literacy enrichment component.
  • Self-Esteem – ​African American children’s negative cultural and racial self-image is well documented. The persistence of this negative self-image impacts their health and educational outcomes. Most academic programs fail to address these deeper cultural issues that negatively impact successful navigation through the educational system. OFS addresses this through its culturally responsive curriculum and mental health support.
  • Cultural Relevance -​ African American children underutilize needed mental health services, mainly due to lack of access and cultural responsiveness from the provider and the delivery of services. OFS addresses this through culturally responsive curriculum and staffing, mental health support, parent and family community outreach, and retention through engagement.