College students help Freedom School program

Tribune Chronicle

YOUNGSTOWN — Seven college students spent part of the summer as servant leader interns mentoring more than 40 students who took part in the Tabernacle Baptist Church Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School.

The students included young adults from Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College, Westminster College and the University of Toledo.

Nikki Cousins Davis with the Tabernacle Children’s Defense Fund said Lois Thornton, project director; Dominique Graves Robinson, site coordinator; and Vernard Richberg, executive director, all with the fund, worked along with the servant leader interns to provide an enrichment reading curriculum and daily literacy curriculum for children in grades second to sixth.

Thornton and Richberg and the interns attended a weeklong training program in Knoxville, Tennessee, for the program.

The five-week literacy program for elementary and middle-school students included a reading program, enrichment activities, song and dance, public speaking and entrepreneurship.

A goal was to get children to read at one grade level higher.

”The students were surrounded by caring adults who shared enthusiasm for learning and reading. The children read high-quality books and engaged in learning activities appropriate to their developmental needs and interests,” Davis said.

Parents were engaged as volunteers and participated in weekly workshops on children’s developmental needs and civic responsibility.

Program organizers said children set goals for themselves and developed positive attitudes and high expectations.

Davis said the students held a finale talent show with songs and dances and showed what they had learned over the summer. The students performed various skits highlighting aspects of their learning experiences.

State Rep. Michele Lepore Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Sarah J. Lowry, representing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office, attended the celebration as guest speakers.

Community groups and individuals who made contributions to the program included Tabernacle Baptist Church, Raymond John Wean Foundation, YSU, Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, PNC Bank, Huntington National Bank, Seven Seventeen Credit Union, City of Youngstown, Westminster Presbyterian, Youngstown Foundation, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.