Why Shalom Park Freedom School

Summer reading loss is the foremost contributor to the achievement gap for low-income children, leading to what the Children’s Defense Fund calls the “cradle to prison pipeline.”

  • Nationally, low-income children typically lose two to three months in reading level every summer, making them less likely to graduate high school as these losses become cumulative.
  • Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools have a 90% success rate for preventing summer reading loss, with 65% of children gaining one or more levels of reading comprehension after just one summer.

The vision for the Shalom Park Freedom School (SPFS) is to engage in tikkun olam by fulfilling the highest level of Jewish charity:  helping children in our community become self-sufficient through closing this achievement gap with a six-week literacy based summer program.  These scholars are selected from Huntingtowne Farms and Sterling, the elementary schools in faith-based partnerships with Temple Israel and Temple Beth El. Other important goals for our Freedom School include:

• To build Jewish community, identity and pride
• To engage at Shalom Park a segment of the Jewish population highly committed to social action; we currently have 150 active volunteers from across Shalom Park and an individual donor base of approximately 150
• To increase teen leadership and sensitivity to the plight of low-income children in our community through our Teen Board, the first in the nation, with 27 teens now assisting the scholars in education, enrichment and camp-type activities

Our project is a collaboration of 8 agencies at Shalom Park: Temple Israel, Temple Beth El, The Levine-Sklut Judaic Library, The Charlotte Jewish Day School, Sandra and Leon Levine Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Services, The Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, and The Foundation of Shalom Park.   When SPFS opened its doors in the summer of 2011 it was the first Jewish-sponsored Freedom School in the nation; subsequently, our initiative inspired a second Jewish Freedom School at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles.

The cost of operating SPFS is approximately $90,000, dominated by staff salaries and training.  Each of the eight Shalom Park partner agencies supports the program financially and through such support as classroom and assembly space, meals, cleaning services, programs (e.g., afternoon enrichment and Six Weeks! Six Books!) and asking constituents to donate snacks, supplies and volunteer hours.   We have enhanced our program by serving lunches on site and by providing swimming lessons twice weekly through an in-kind donation by the LJCC.   We also hold an annual spring movie fundraiser to bring together supporters and potential new donors.

SPFS operates in partnership with Freedom School Partners (FSP) which operates 17 Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® sites in Charlotte.  FSP recruits and trains our site coordinator and our six college students who serve as classroom teachers and manages our core operations, including processing our financial donations.

Please go to our website’s homepage where you can watch our short video, Welcome to Shalom Park Freedom School.