Freedom Schools Austin

Freedom Schools Austin gives children three fundamental resources needed to develop their potential: 1. Literacy skills 2. Character strengths needed to make good decisions and 3. A community that believes in them. Freedom Schools’ impact extends to transform college student interns into advocates for children and inspire them to be future leaders, and to deepen the community’s investment in children.

Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® programs are six-week summer literacy programs led by college student interns. In 2014, Freedom Schools Austin will run from June 16 – July 25. Freedom Schools serve children who most need and yet can least afford summer learning opportunities. Championing the cause to defeat summer learning loss and giving every child an opportunity to succeed is the foundation of  Freedom Schools. In addition to the program elements described below, scholars receive two meals and a snack daily.

Information for Parents

Your scholar could be one of the over 100,000 scholars who have had a CDF Freedom Schools® experience since 1995!ReadingClass_IMG_9160.JPG-1024x682

In partnership with Welcome Table Inc., the CDF Freedom Schools®program works hard to ensure each scholar is equipped with the necessary skills to succeed in life. Our program boosts scholars’ motivation to read, and generates a more positive attitude towards learning Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math.  It also connects the needs of scholars and families to the resources of their communities.

Servant Leader Interns

Servant Leader Interns are college students with the passion and commitment to be a role model in the life of a child. Interns serve as teachers during classroom activities and mentors through their scholars’ time in Freedom Schools. Interns receive 90 hours of training on curriculum delivery, youth development, and classroom management prior to working in Freedom Schools.

Site Testing Manager

The Site Testing Manager is a professor, graduate student majoring in education psychology, or a current or retired teacher who will help us assess each student in our program.

More Information and Video

cdf video

The Freedom Schools are Coming!

Welcome Table, Incorporated (St. James’ non-profit) is proud to announce that our Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® site will begin operations this June at Oak Springs Elementary School. The site will operate from June 16th through July 25th.

CDF Freedom Schools are designed to interrupt the ‘cradle to prison pipeline’ by encouraging young scholars to develop a love of reading. Many of our children, especially in East Austin, are trapped in an educational system that leads them to drop out of school and then choose a life path that includes criminal behavior, which could end with a prison term…or worse. Literacy is the gateway to learning; learning helps us change our circumstances. We must learn to read, and then we can read to learn.

The Freedom Schools movement is centered around an Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC) that has been in use for 20 years in cities across the nation. College-aged Servant Leader Interns facilitate the IRC, providing reading enrichment that will help prevent the ‘summer slide.’

Welcome Table, Inc believes in promoting holistic development, we have a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) component during the afternoon. On Fridays, the scholars will be taken on field trips that focus on expanding their understanding of the world around them.

For an overview of how the program looks, please take six (6) minutes to watch the video at:

This summer, we will focus our efforts on changing the perspectives of 50 children who have just completed grade levels Kindergarten through 5th. We have ten (10) spots available for children from St. James’ and ten (10) spots for children from the wider Austin area. Thirty (30) spots are reserved for children who currently attend Oak Springs Elementary. We would love your young scholar to participate.

If you do not have a young person to enroll, there are other ways to be involved:

  • Serve as a volunteer during free periods
  • Donate airline miles from United or American airlines to assist with travel for Servant Leader Interns and staff to attend the June training at Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee
  • Tell your friends and neighbors about Freedom Schools…ask them to consider making a tax-deductible monetary donation at
  • Tell us about people and organizations who support early childhood education and enrichment

For more information, please contact Gina Houston at [email protected] or Mila Jackson at [email protected] …or just grab us after a service.

We are very excited to offer this program in Austin for the first time. We look forward to changing the lives of our young people and showing them that theycan make a difference – in Themselves, in their Families, in their Communities, in this Nation, and in the World.

Freedom School: Site Testing Manager

fs-intern-and-scholarJob Description

Basic Qualifications: Four years of college, should NOT be affiliated with or employed by CDF Freedom Schools® program.

Preferred Qualifications: Professors, Graduate students majoring education/psychology, current/retired school teachers

Compensation: $600. To be paid at the end of the Freedom Schools session if all of the below tasks are completed to the satisfaction of the CDF National Office. Compensation will be sent to Site Testing Manager by early December.


Before the tests:

  • Receives materials from CDF (test materials, test protocol, guide sheet, confidentiality agreement, STM contract form)
  • Discuss and determine the testing schedule of pre-test and post-test with contact person of the site (ED, PD, or SC).
  • STM training via conference call (TBA)
  • Receive children’s list with their grade and gender.
  • Produce a list of participants. Select at least 7 children per day for 5 days (35 children) evenly distributed based on their grade and gender from grade 1 through 12 (or the highest grade in your site). Please ask for ED, PD or SC’s help to this process (e.g., information about children who will not be in Freedom Schools for the last week post test).
  • Make sure that there is a quiet place to administer the individual test (desk and two chairs).
  • Send STM contract form and confidentiality agreement form to CDF national office

Pre test days:  First FIVE morning IRC times, first Tuesday through Second Monday

  • Test starts right after the Harambee.
  • STM pull a child from classroom one at a time and walk together to the testing place with some small talk. Administer the test following the direction. Test time will vary by individual (between 15 to 25 min).
  • When a child finishes the test, the child may be asked to fill out survey forms.
  • Walk the child to his/her classroom and pull the next child on the list from the classroom.
  • STM will administer the test to 4 ~ 7 children. We encourage STM to maximize the number of participants.
  • Submit completed test answer sheets to CDF DC office no later than one day after the last day of pre test.  Keep the shipping receipt and tracking number.

Post test days:  Last FIVE morning IRC times, fifth Friday through sixth Thursday

    • Test starts right after the Harambee.
    • STM pull a child from the classroom at a time and walk together to the testing place with some small talk. Administer the test following the direction. Test time will vary by individual (between 15 to 25 min).
    • When a child finishes the test, the child may be asked to fill out survey forms.
    • Walk the child to his/her classroom and pull the next child on the list from the classroom.
    • Try to make sure that children who took pretest take post test again.  We encourage STM to maximize the number of participants.
  • Submit completed test answer sheets to CDF DC office no later than one day after the last day of post test.  Keep the shipping receipt and tracking number. Return test materials.

To apply, please email a cover letter and resume, to Freedom School Austin.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers

powerful tools for caregivers logoAn exceptional series of 6 classes that addresses the challenges faced by those who provide unpaid care for an elder or an adult with a chronic illness. Participants will learn and practice a variety of communication skills that result in better self-care and improved caregiving.

Click here to take the caregiver quiz!

Led by trained facilitators • Proven effective at reducing stress
Dynamic and fun small group format
FREE • No cost for participation

MONDAYS • 6:30-8:30 PM
April 7 – May 12
St.James’ Episcopal Church
1941 Webberville Road • Austin TX

To register and for more information about
Powerful Tools for Caregivers please call 512-698-2550.

Walk to Jerusalem Update – We’ve Made it to Gabes, Tunisia!




The East Austin Wellness Center is pleased to announce that we’ve “walked” a total of  2,420 miles on our Walk to Jerusalem over the past two weeks, making it to Fes, Morocco in our first week and all the way to Gabes, Tunisia this week!

If you have the chance, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with Gabes, reading the Wikipedia entry here. You’re encouraged to reflect on and pray for this part of the world during your exercise this week.

Gabes Prayer Needs:

  • The city’s fast-growing number of chemical factories has resulted in a serious pollution and health problem, both in the area and in the Gulf of Gabes. The government is working on new programs and laws to decrease the amount of pollution. Please pray for them in this important effort.
  • Poverty and unemployment are on the rise, and the city is seeing a lot of social unrest resulting in violent protests involving unemployed residents and the police. Please pray for peace, love, guidance and support for all involved in these issues.

Additionally, below is this week’s devotion that you are welcome to reflect on and even discuss if you choose to exercise with others.

Visitors along the road:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.
When we think of visitors along the road, the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 naturally comes to mind. We can all somehow relate to that story. The Good Samaritan actually stopped to help the hurting person while others ignored the hurting person. How often can we say that we have walked past a hurting person? How often have we helped a hurting person? The person may not even be a stranger. The excuses are many. To help the hurting person means stepping out of our comfort zone, rearranging plans and yes, showing and living the fruits of the Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This week as you walk you may not see a physically hurting person, but ask God to help you see others as He sees them. If we are willing, He will show us the hurting of this world and fill us with His compassion and love.
Questions to ponder: 
Have you ever unexpectedly and spontaneously helped a stranger?
How did you feel?
Think about hurting people you know. As you walk this week pray for
those hurting ones. Does God want you to take some action?
Thank you all for your participation! Don’t forget to track your miles at by noon each Friday. Remember that every 20 minutes of physical activity equals 1 mile!
The East Austin Wellness Center


Thanksgiving Food Drive

Thanks to all the members of St. James’ Episcopal, Austin, who took food baskets to their work to collect food for our Holiday Food Drive.  We collected 15 baskets full of wonderful food for families at St. James’ Episcopal School.  Twenty five bags of food were packed and given to families from our school so they could have a Thanksgiving feast.  Each family received an HEB card to buy a turkey or ham for their family meal.  It will be a happy Thanksgiving for these families this year.



Some members of St. James’ Church asked if we could have a similar food drive for the Christmas season.  So we will have baskets in the Narthex again this Sunday and on December 8.  We will donate the food to families of our neighbors who attend Neighbor 2 Neighbor on December 17.  So please return the basket full of food to church by December 15.



Welcome Table Hosts Angels Sing Fundraiser

Today, Welcome Table, Inc. announced its special screening of Angels Sing at the Alamo Drafthouse as a fundraiser in support of WTI’s programs in east Austin.  Seating is limited – purchase tickets in advance here.

angels sing 2


Angels Sing is a heartfelt story about the importance of family ties, overcoming tragedy and the undeniable magic of Christmas. This film, beloved by movie goers of all ages, stars Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett and more! Net proceeds from this screening support Welcome Table Inc.


  • Saturday, November 2, 2013
  • 7:00 PM
  • Alamo Drafthouse, Slaughter Lane
  • Purchase Tickets here– seating limited

Welcome Table Inc. Launches Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School in Austin

Welcome Table, Inc. supports the Austin community’s deep concern for our children and their academic performance.

Our sponsorship of a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools®, the first of its kind in Austin, reflects this care.

The program encourages each Scholar to love reading and realize that they can become contributing, caring members in their communities. If you are excited about this innovative opportunity, we urge you to consider an in-kind contribution and/or financial support for one or more Scholars in the amount of $1,400.  This amount enables a scholar to participate in the program next summer.

Watch this video to learn more about the program:

cdf video

Fifty Austin children ages five through twelve will be enrolled in the program and will spend six weeks focusing on literacy, legacy, and leadership. The award-winning curriculum will be implemented with a 10:1 ratio of Scholars to college-age Servant Leader Intern who will be trained by CDF.

Gina Houston champions this initiative.  Her commitment to launching this program in Austin is a result of having met with the senior leadership of Children’s Defense Fund and having actively participated in a simulation of a day using the curriculum.

Under the direction of Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, CDF Freedom Schools® was inspired by the servant leadership approach of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools Project and was launched at CDF in 1995. Five key components of the program are behind its success in inspiring young Scholars and their parents:

  • High quality literacy enrichment
  • Parent and family involvement
  • Social action and civic engagement
  • Intergenerational leadership development
  • Physical health, mental health and nutrition

The program’s Integrated Reading Curriculum uses best-practice teaching strategies to help young Scholars develop a love for reading, improve positive attitudes toward learning, and create a desire to make a personal difference in their families and in the community. Nearly 10,000 Scholars at 135 sites in 81 cities and 27 states are currently participating in the CDF Freedom Schools® experience.

More information about Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools®, including the results of a five-year longitudinal evaluation sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, can be found on CDF’s web site.

To be able to launch the CDF Freedom Schools® program, we will need the commitment and resources of those with a passion for children, literacy and social justice. The program is free to the Scholars who attend, but expenses must be paid for with community dollars. The cost of the six-week program is approximately $70,000, or $1,400 per child. I am asking you to make a commitment to sponsor one or more Scholars, in any way that is feasible.

If you have questions please feel free to contact Gina at  [email protected]