Monthly highlight from School District 622

Imagine a program where students are motivated to read and feel good about learning. Classes are small, energy is high, and students are taught through an interactive and culturally relevant curriculum. 

For 50 Webster Elementary School students, this was the reality over six weeks during the summer. These learners participated in Freedom Schools, a program developed by the Children’s Defense Fund. Rooted in the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement, the program focuses on literacy and cultural enrichment.

Five days a week, students participated in the full-day program, where breakfast and lunch was provided. They started each morning high-energy Harambee! time. Harambee! consisted of a daily read-aloud where guests from the community were invited to read to the students. Staff and students also sang, cheered and chanted to reinforce positive messages for the day.

With literacy at the core of the program, students also focused on conflict resolution and social action while enjoying energizing field trips. With a 10:1 child to adult ratio, Webster students made significant gains in reading without sustaining summer learning loss.

Freedom Schools also featured a strong parent empowerment component. Every Wednesday evening, school staff met with families on a variety of topics. 

As a bonus during the welcome back event for 622 employees in August, Freedom Schools students brought their talents to the stage for an energizing performance of “Something Inside So Strong”. Students received a standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 1,000 employees.

In addition to Freedom Schools, students in District 622 participated in a variety of programming, including: Summer Blast for incoming kindergarteners, school-age care for students K-8, enrichment programs like band and athletic camps, and an intergenerational program at the Carver Garden. 

Extended school year opportunities supported learning maintenance, and summer targeted services offered academic and social-emotional development for students. Additionally, students participated in the STEM-focused Young Scholars Camp, and Positive Peers, an anti-bullying collaborative with Mahtomedi.

The impact of summer programming resulted in increased confidence and social skills, a greater interest in reading, and a boost in community engagement. All totaled, 3,392 students were served by summer programming across 12 sites. Learning certainly didn’t take a summer break in District 622!

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