Freedom School finale brings tears, cheers for Mount Airy Schools

By David Broyles

July 31, 2013

Mount Airy City Schools’ Freedom School finale at Jones Intermediate School was equal parts energetic “hirambe” style cheers and tears on the faces of some students and servant interns, who served as instructors.

Student Services Coordinator Jesse Hiatt said parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of Freedom School students were invited for the finale ceremony which featured students performing chants, cheers and songs.

“Each class had an opportunity to show a video they had made,” said Hiatt. “Every Friday during this summer was practice day for what they would do at the finale.” He said every student was recognized in some way for superlatives and talents such as being the best dancer or the best reader as each class took a turn honoring its members.

He said a slide show also recounted various enrichment activities students participated in at Freedom School. These field trips included going to the Mount Airy Public Library, bowling, Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut, swimming at Reeves Community Center, the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, a midday ghost tour in Mount Airy, horseback riding, rollerskating and a trip to the Greensboro Science Center and SciQuarium.

On-site enrichment activities included a water day with a water slide, creating towers from gumdrops and toothpicks and a duck tape creations day.

“I wouldn’t have guessed we would have a number of children who told us they had not been swimming before,” Hiatt said. “I found it understandable when they said that about horseback riding. I don’t think many had been roller skating before. We tried to offer something every afternoon to introduce children to new and different things.”

Hiatt said he had received only positive feedback from parents and Freedom School students who became excited about learning.

“I talked to one parent who said their child woke up the Saturday after the finale ceremony and said no more school,” said Hiatt. “That parent said the child sang Freedom School songs for the rest of the weekend though.”

School officials are hoping Freedom School also has helped with a traditional “gap” in student reading achievement once they return to school because of the summer hiatus.

“I’m hopeful we’ll see a real difference in what they (students) lose over the summer,” added Hiatt.”I hope we have not only been able to know and support where they are (in reading skills) but how well they have kept up by mid year and to see if they maintain that upward climb. The ultimate object of learning is to learn something for a lifetime. We want this to be a springboard to accelerate closing the gap.”

Hiatt said school officials are planning on continuing freedom school next summer and hope to expand the program. He said regulations stipulate students in quantities of 50 or 100 so officials are examining if they can afford to double enrollment. A total of 50 were invited to participate and 44 completed the program. Hiatt also praised the efforts of the servant leader interns who helped with the program.

“They kept the energy level up all summer long,” Hiatt said. “The effort they put into developing lessons and developing relationships with students was great.”

He said interns are required to have at least one year of college to participate. They are not required to be students who are studying to be teachers. Applications will be taken for next summers interns this October. Hiatt encouraged interested persons to apply because increasing enrollment would require more interns.

“It really is about them developing that relationship with children,” Hiatt said. “For this program, loving children is more important than knowing how to teach.”

Reach David Broyles at or 719-1952.