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Freedom Schools as settings for youth development

Identifying community-based assets and accountability criteria

Research project

Quick facts

Director/PI: Nancy Ares

Collaborators: Jeremy Smith, North East Area Development


Nancy Ares, along with Freedom School staff and Warner doctoral students, is conducting a study of community and school cultural capital circulating in a Children’s Defense Fund-sponsored Freedom School summer program provided by North East Area Development, a not-for-profit in northeast Rochester, N.Y. Freedom Schools emphasize academic and social learning, civic engagement, intergenerational leadership development and cultural competence. The goal of this case study is to examine varied forms of cultural capital as indicators/criteria for youth development grounded in community goals and standards for their school-aged children. In collaboration with Freedom School participants, we are working to 1.) examine social and cultural resources that support positive youth development and 2.) to understand the relationship of those resources to community-based goals for youth social and academic development. Armed love is emerging as a foundation on which Freedom School practices lie.

Recent research in communities under stress is taking on a resource-rich framework (Cobb & Nasir, 2002; Gonzalez & Moll, 2002) for exploring the communities and populations that Freedom Schools serve – largely African American and low income, subjected to varied forms of oppression. These approaches come from communities, community coalitions and families themselves, as they resist being portrayed as broken and in need of redemption (Berry, Portney, & Thompson, 1993; Carby, 1992). However, examination of community-based assets for supporting social, sociopolitical and academic development of children and youth is largely absent from the research literature. We ask:

  • How do forms of community cultural wealth (CCW, Yosso, 2005) manifest in FS school programs?
  • How do those forms of capital relate to community/family and FS staff’s goals and standards for children’s social and academic development?