For San Diego parents like Erica and Mark Gardner, the numbers don’t always add up to the best education prospects for her children when school’s out. They have three young kids, and it would cost about $3,600 to send them all to summer camp for six weeks.

[call_to_action color=”” button_text=”Enroll your child for Summer 2016″ button_url=””]
Mt. Erie Freedom School is a free summer program designed to help enrich the lives of San Diego’s inner-city kids. Enrollment for 2016 is open.

For the last four years, they’ve found a solution that gives their children a step up while taking worry off their minds. This summer, they’re taking part in Mt. Erie Freedom School, a free program designed to help enrich the lives of San Diego’s inner-city kids.

“This is a huge blessing for our family. We like the strong focus on reading, African-American culture and serving the community. We also really like that the program is supported by several community partners,” Erica Gardner said. “There is no other program like it in San Diego County and very few throughout the country.”

Mt. Erie Freedom School is the brainchild of founding members Rev. Walter Wells of Mt. Erie Baptist Church and his granddaughter, the executive director Kailyn Wells-Conway.

“Freedom School serves children who most need summer learning opportunities but can least afford them,” Wells-Conway said. “We work to give every child the opportunity to succeed and defeat summer learning loss.”

The summer program began in 2011 and this year’s class is the largest so far with 80 kids. Each day starts off with a pep rally where students step and sing. This is followed by the foundation of Mt. Erie Freedom School – almost three hours devoted to developing reading skills. Kids focus on books with the theme of “I Can Make a Difference.” Here’s a clip of their annual performance:

The students spend afternoons on activities like field trips and cooking, yoga, and sports with a special focus on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

College interns lead the sessions as part of Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program, which grew out of the Civil Rights Movement to offer African-American kids a rich summer experience to motivate them to become change agents in their communities.

“We focus on an integrated reading curriculum,” Freedom Schools service leader intern Troy Williams said. “We focus on allowing the students to read more so it’s not just reading books and giving us a summary.”

He said after reading a book, students get to show what they learned in creative ways like playing out a skit or writing a radio commercial.

“We learn about freedom and what people do to change the world,” 10-year-old student at Freedom School Ciara Slaughter said.

Kids love attending Freedom School during the summer. But parents are also big fans of the program.

“My kids look forward to Freedom School and seeing the friends that they made last summer,” says Mark Gardner, the San Diego parent. “They have also been able to better comprehend that everyone is different and has different thought processes.”

Gardner also appreciates the program’s commitment to education and fun.

“It is a great way to help kids from all financial backgrounds have a great summer break, and expand their horizons beyond their immediate surroundings,” he said.

Mt. Erie Freedom School will return in summer 2016. To enroll your child in the program or donate funds to support the program, call (619) 263-1914 or contact Freedom Schools.

Learn more about Mt. Erie Freedom School’s sponsor, SDG&E.

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