Tanager Place bringing Civil Rights-era Freedom Schools to Iowa

Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 5:30 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -A summer program dating back to the 1960′s civil rights movement is coming to Iowa. It’s called Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools.

The goal is to help students avoid summer learning loss, particularly in minority and low-income households. The Cedar Rapids nonprofit Tanager Place bringing the program to Cedar Rapids.

Summer break is a time some kids like to take a break from reading. “We know here that the data around kids of color is still lacked behind their white peers,” said Okpara Rice, Tanager Place CEO. “So we already know that going into it right. So any type of disruption in the educational system is going to have profound impacts.”

The 6-week program for kids K-12 hopes to steer them clear of the summer slide. It focuses a lot on literacy, with kids reading books on characters they can connect with.

“What we want to have for young people is the love of learning, the love for reading,” said Rice. “One of the things we know is when you read about people who are like yourself, it’s going to engage you more.”

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

The program can fill a void lost during the pandemic. “Kids have missed out on so much classroom time,” said Hartzler. “A lot of time with access to books, and access to learning, and access to people who are passionate about their learning.”

Donors are funding the program. They have 30 spots this year, and hope to expand in the future. They are working with the Cedar Rapids Community School District on A place to hold the summer sessions. “Tanager’s Place is doing its part in trying to help young people succeed,” said Rice.

The program will run from June 14th-July 23rd.

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