Freedom Arts & Education Center’s After Sessions take place after schools dismiss on Mondays and Wednesdays. This program provides our scholars from the 63112, 63113, and 63133 zip codes with a safe space to learn, create, and grow after they leave school for the day. Enrollment starts in 1st grade and we stay committed to them all the way through high school graduation. Since 2014, dozens of young people living in systemically underserved areas have received access to a safe, resourced space for homework help, academic enrichment, and arts education. Our team has empowered and equipped 100% of our scholars to bring their reading skills up to grade level with 30% now reading above grade level. Additionally, 100% of our scholars have shown drastic improvement in their mental math fluency and writing skills. This program currently serves 25 students each week from 10 different schools, including public, charter, and home schools.
Mondays and Wednesdays are centered around structured enrichment and tutoring time which equips and empowers our scholars to reach academic, artistic, and behavioral goals. We pick our scholars up from school or home and bring them to Freedom Arts & Education Center. The first hour is their time to unwind by playing games, reading, listening to music, working on their art, and just hanging out together. Then we all gather for a meal to provide our scholars with fuel to focus and learn as well more time to build community and lasting friendships. The final hour and a half is for tutoring and homework help. Scholars are strategically teamed with volunteer tutors to reach academic goals with a special emphasis placed on literacy and mathematics.
The third Friday of every month is our Family Friday. Our scholars, their friends and parents come to eat, play, create, and fellowship. We take time every night before we eat to circle up and share highs and lows going on, find ways to encourage one another, and pray together. These nights reinforce the strong community that has been built in Freedom Arts and serves as a welcome into our family for new scholars and their families.
As we continued to grow with our scholars from northwest St. Louis city, we saw the necessity of walking with them through their academic education so they could thrive and advance in the classroom. In September 2014, we launched this tutoring program to provide our scholars with access to out-of-school academic support. Each scholar is matched with a mentor who works with them to set not only academic goals, but also behavioral and co-curricular goals. Free time is also provided so the kids can just be kids in a safe place! Additionally, this program serves the adult mentors by providing them with an opportunity to form a positive relationship with a young person, break down potential ethnic, class, and generational areas of division, and learn the areas in which they can grow. We encourage our mentors to use whatever they are good at and passionate about to connect with their scholar, such as playing basketball or discussing fashion. Meaningful relationships have been formed and we have seen our scholars reach many of their academic and behavioral goals.
Like other high quality afterschool programs, After Sessions provides a safe space for students to improve work-study habits and develop the skills needed to succeed in school. Access to relevant, nurturing programs such as this one combat poverty and crime by increasing academic success, decreasing the high school dropout rate, and providing the basic necessity of a welcoming, non-colonizing, and safe environment when school is out. Elementary and middle school students from systemically under-resourced communities and at-risk environments greatly benefit from After Sessions, finding themselves equipped and empowered to determine a positive trajectory for their lives.
This program has been generous supported by The St. Louis Community Foundation and The Pettus Foundation.
“Participation in quality programs also helps to increase student engagement and school connectedness, increases in self-esteem, improved relationships with peers and adults, and declines in negative, risk-taking behavior. Increased student engagement and performance in school can help to improve overall educational attainment. The potential of out-of-school can only be realized when children and youth who need them have access to quality programs that reflect their needs and interests” (source).
"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." -Frederick Douglass
Freedom Readers increases literacy and social awareness by cultivating an appropriately leveled and culturally relevant library for scholars enrolled in Freedom Arts & Education Center’s programs.
Youth suffering from poverty and living in systemically underserved areas face unjust obstacles to becoming strong readers. Many youth are attending underserved schools and have few opportunities to read at home. According to the National Assessment of Education Progress, “The more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students are in reading proficiency. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read to aloud everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above poverty” (2015).
Freedom Readers strengthens the literacy skills of young people living in impoverished areas by developing a library of highly engaging, developmentally appropriate, and culturally relevant books. The NEA (2009) found “80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children.” Most of the children enrolled in Freedom Arts’ academic programs fall between the ages of 7 and 11 years old. This age group is a focus of Freedom Arts due to the importance of providing elementary school-age children with the resources and opportunities to succeed and reach their goals.
Scholars read with tutors and mentors during our After Sessions program, receive the support and guidance needed to improve literacy, and are awarded books to take home to grow their own personal libraries. They are working to improve their reading speed, the frequency of reading, their understanding of what they have read, and making reading commonplace in their homes.
You can get involved in this program and be a part of fighting illiteracy and creating academic equity. To volunteer as a tutor or to purchase one of the books from our Freedom Readers wish list, please email Beth Gibson.
This program has been supported by The Assistance League of St. Louis and Usborne Books, as well as by many generous individuals.