Last updated: July 22. 2014 4:18PM - 848 Views
By - dbroyles@civitasmedia.com

Mount Airy City Schools Freedom School student scholars dance and sing as they warm up after breakfast in the morning and get ready for class.
Mount Airy City Schools Freedom School student scholars dance and sing as they warm up after breakfast in the morning and get ready for class.
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One theme for Mount Airy City Schools second year of Freedom School is supporting at risk students’ attitude and teaching them that learning has an impact.

This week marks the fifth week of the six-week program, held daily from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“More than anything else, Freedom School is to build confidence,” said Coordinator of Student Services Jesse Hiatt. “I don’t know if this has ever been the officially stated mission but I see it as the underlying mission.” Hiatt said the school is concerned with developing positive attitudes about school and education as a whole while increasing self esteem.

This year’s high energy mix of singing (called Harambee), study and enrichment activities involves 11 servant leader interns and more than 15 third grade students involved in the Read to Achieve program, who are taught by additional certified teachers. Hiatt said the program is made possible through a combination of existing funds and funding from the state allotment for at-risk students. Hiatt said the program which serves children in grades K-6. The school began with 50 students last year.

“This year we had to hustle at the last minute for the 50 kids,” Hiatt said. “We were overwhelmed before the summer.” He explained the larger number of participants caused organizers to tailor enrichment activities to fit the budget.

“We’d like to have 100 next year. It’ll be great. Frankly, we have heard of high rates of dropouts in other areas,” Hiatt said. “A six week commitment is a lot for families. The program calls for a ratio of one intern to 10 students. Our students are still coming though.”

He is also proud of tweaking the local guest readers program in the school. Hiatt said organizers originally thought of asking police and fire departments, for instance, to send someone on a set day every week to read. They quickly found out through research that students reacted better to a variety of positions. The compromise was worked out with Ashly Lancaster, Director of Marketing and Communications at Northern Hospital to have readers with different hosptial jobs come to the school (as well as other individuals with a variety of occupations) and read to participants.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.

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