Tanager Place bringing Civil Rights-era Freedom Faculties to Iowa

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – A summer program from the 1960s civil rights movement is coming to Iowa. It’s called Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.

The aim is to help students avoid learning losses in the summer, especially in households with minorities and low incomes. Cedar Rapids’ charitable Tanager Place brings the program to Cedar Rapids.

The summer break is a time when some children like to take a break from reading. “We know here that data on colored children is still missing behind their white counterparts,” said Okpara Rice, CEO of Tanager Place. “So we already know that things are going right. Any kind of disruption in the education system will have profound implications. “

The 6-week program for kids K-12 hopes to keep them off the summer slide. It is very focused on literacy, with kids reading books about characters to bond with.

“What we want for young people is the love of learning, the love of reading,” said Rice. “One of the things we know is, when you read about people who are like you, you will get more preoccupied.”

“A lot of kids see people who look like them in really sad ways through the media, books, and the news,” said Maggie Hartzler, program manager. “So having access to the things that people celebrate who look like them can be very powerful and can help children develop a sense of hope.”

The program can fill a void that was lost during the pandemic. “Children missed so much class time,” said Hartzler. “Lots of time with access to books, access to learning and access to people who are passionate about learning.”

Donors finance the program. They have 30 places this year and hope to expand in the future. They are working with the Cedar Rapids Community School District in a location where the summer sessions are held. “Tanager’s Place does its part to help young people succeed,” said Rice.

The program runs from June 14th to July 23rd.

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