U of M to partner with Kwanzaa Freedom School


Six-week program for North Minneapolis youth features U facilities and faculty.

The University of Minnesota’s Konopka Institute will partner with Kwanzaa Church and the Nia Imani Youth Development Center in North Minneapolis to bring the 2007 Kwanzaa Freedom School to the University of Minnesota campus.

The Kwanzaa Freedom School is a six-week, literacy-rich summer and after-school program designed to create positive learning environments for youth. Freedom School nurtures the belief that young people can make a difference in themselves, their homes and their communities. The program began June 25 for the nearly two dozen high school students who will participate in Freedom School programs at the university this year.

The sessions are held two days a week for three hours a day and will harness the educational and outreach skills of the university.

The Freedom School movement has its roots in the modern Civil Rights Movement and is administered by the Children’s Defense Fund. The curriculum is staffed primarily by college-aged young adults — some of whom will be University of Minnesota students — committed to community leadership and service to children.

The 2007 Kwanzaa Freedom School represents the first time that a Freedom School program has been held on a college or university campus in Minnesota.

“We are proud to partner with Kwanzaa Church, the Nia Imani Youth Development Center, Community Roots Under New Connection (CRUNC), and community leaders from the Jordan and Hawthorne areas of North Minneapolis to connect the University of Minnesota campus with high-school-aged youth to promote the richness of literacy, learning and higher education,” said Paul Snyder, director of the Minnesota Youth Community Learning (MYCL) Initiative in the University’s Konopka Institute for Best Practices in Adolescent Health (department of pediatrics).

“We are very excited to partner with the University of Minnesota to show youth that the learning and skill-building resources of a great learning institution are within their reach,” said Ayolonda Mack, Kwanzaa Freedom School project director.

The University of Minnesota’s participation in Kwanzaa Freedom School will involve two main components: facilities and faculty expertise. The university’s Freedom School sessions will take place at Tate Hall on the East Bank as well as several other locations. University academic centers, including the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, will provide presentations and discussion forums. Freedom School students will be learning computer skills at the Walter Library Computer Lab and will also visit the St. Paul campus for agriculture and gardening demonstrations.

“The university has numerous resources for young adults to gain new skills, promote academic excellence, and invigorate a lifelong interest in learning,” said Tex Ostvig, coordinator with the university’s Office of Equity and Diversity, who is helping coordinate the university’s participation in Freedom School.

The Konopka Institute’s MYCL Initiative is facilitating and supporting the university’s participation in Freedom School. The Nia Imani Youth Development Center and CRUNC are partners in the Konopka Institute’s MYCL Initiative, a collaboration that partners university staff with seven diverse community coalitions throughout the state to re-engage students with learning and school.

“Through the MYCL Initiative’s U as Neighbor effort, we are creating lasting bonds between the University of Minnesota and our North Minneapolis neighbors for mutual benefit,” said Snyder.

For more information about the Konopka Institute for Best Practices in Adolescent Health or the MYCL Initiative, visit www.konop ka.umn.edu. For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School movement, visit www.freedomschools.org.

Bob San writes for the University News Service.
PHOTO Ayolonda Mack, Kwanzaa Freedom School project director
Credit: Photo courtesy of U of M