- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

FORREST CITY, Ark. (AP) - A new program at Forrest City High School will help 50 incoming ninth graders with literacy training while also assisting with the transition from the junior high school to the high school campus.

Freedom School, funded by the Children’s Defense Fund, is a summer enrichment program designed to assist students through academic enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational leadership development and nutrition, health and mental health.

The six-week program is targeting 50 eighth grade students, 25 males and 25 females, and will be overseen by FCHS?staff members Sharon Wilson, Winfred Winston and Latasha Baggett.

“This is going to be a six-week program targeting 50 advancing eighth graders who will be transitioning to the high school. It will be 25 boys and 25 girls, and the program motivates students to read by using historical knowledge, field trips and special lessons that promote active participation by all students involved,” Winston, the program director, told the Times-Herald (https://bit.ly/1fVekVX).

“It is a literacy program, not necessarily for low-achieving students and not necessarily for high-achieving students. There is parental involvement, and our parents will be required to attend a weekly workshop,” he said.

Students may pick up applications for the program from their eighth grade science teacher.

All applications must be returned to the science teachers who will turn that information over to the program directors who will then interview perspective students.

“This isn’t a first-come, first-serve situation. We will pick up the applications and we will call the students in for an interview. Once we get 50 students, we will have to stop unless somebody bows out,” he said.

“We require full participation. No absenteeism. We hope to have students on the waiting list, and they’ll be in a position to take the student’s place who have absenteeism. We want this program to be successful, and we’re going to need those signing up to be there every day,” said Winston.

Winston said the class day will be split into two segments, literacy learning in morning with more hands-on participation in the afternoon.

“In the mornings, we’ll focus on the literacy skills, and during the second half of the day, we’ll have fun activities like chess, public speaking, stepping, musical performances - those types of things.

“On Fridays, we have field trips planned and some of the sites they will visit will include Little Rock Central, and the Civil Rights Museum. We’ll close it out with a trip to Atlanta where we have a lot of activities planned,” he said.

According to Winston, the program will not be run by traditional teachers, but by college-age adults who will receive specialized training targeted to help them learn as classroom leaders.

“The program will be run by student-leader interns who will receive one week of training in Clinton, Tennessee, at the home of the Alex Haley farm. That site was purchased by the Children’s Defense Fund, and they are using the estate for training for programs such as Freedom School,” Winston said.

Each class will consist of 10 students with five student-leaders and a staff member that rotates.

“I’m the program director, and our site coordinator is Latasha Baggett, who is also a teacher at the high school. Our executive director is Sharon Wilson, and we will be overseeing the program and making sure that it is run correctly, and we just look forward to the program being an extreme success,” said Winston.

“This is a nationally-recognized program with more than 1,500 sites. This is a first for the Forrest City School District, but they currently have a program in Helena-West Helena. We hope to be very successful and maybe some other organizations will be able to use this model as well.”

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Information from: Times-Herald, https://www.thnews.com/

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