Current Initiatives

KCFSI continues to fulfill the mission of the Children’s Defense Fund, as well as, it’s own established mission and vision.

Childrens Defense Fund (CDF) Mission
KCFSI Mission

The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start, and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. CDF provides a strong, effective voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves. We pay particular attention to the needs of poor and minority children and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investment before they get sick or into trouble, drop out of school, or suffer family breakdown. CDF began in 1973 and is a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundations, corporation grants and individual donations. We have never taken government funds.
To provide a safe environment for operation of a literacy based summer program managed by caring adults who utilize teaching techniques that nurture, build self-esteem, foster leadership, and develop a love for reading. The program empowers parents, children, young adults and the community, and centers around the daily theme, “I Can Make A Difference” in myself, my family, my community, my country, and my world.
KCFSI Vision

To create a supportive, nurturing environment that sets high expectations for children, strengthens their sense of self worth and lets them know that they are loved and valued.


Transformative Leadership


The KCFSI program is dedicated to developing future leaders from within our ranks who will go forth and become transformative agents of change in urban schools and communities. It is our desire that their Freedom School experience in the classroom with our young scholars will spark an affinity for service in urban educational arenas. The Servant Leader Interns undergo comprehensive local, national and site-based training, as well as, the practical experience gained through their daily leadership responsibilities. This training prepares them to have the mind and heart of service as the critical link missing from the lives and educational experiences of many urban youth. Each year we prepare more Servant Leader Interns to serve in greater capacities during our summer season. Servant Leader Interns become Site Coordinators, Project Directors, and Assistant Program Managers. Additionally, our success is measured by staff who return year after year – stretching their competencies to another level while positively impacting and shaping delivery of our program components. In 2008, the experience of the returning leaders consisted of 10 Project Directors with at least 3-4 years experience, 17 Site Coordinators with at least 3-14 years experience, and 41 Servant Leaders Interns with 3-5 years experience. This year, 10 more staff members were promoted to site-based administrative positions. Freedom Schools are restorative learning environments where all children rise to high expectations and strengthen their sense of self worth through transformative experiences, interactions, and curricular activities. The “Freedom School Experience” is like none other. The transformational power of a strengths-based approach, applied learning opportunities, social action projects, and conflict resolution skills is unparalleled. This approach imparts each and every scholar, Servant Leader Intern, and community member with a broadened appreciation for shared cultural legacies of greatness and social justice.

Transforming Predominant Educational Paradigms This approach works best when instructional leaders fully embrace high expectations and a genuine belief in all children. Every school classroom and instructional leader offers a different learning environment for our children. The ever-growing achievement gap signifies the evidence of dynamics that have not always fared well with minority, urban youth. Nationally, this population suffers from learning experiences that have yet to eliminate achievement gaps, or even systematically improve annual outcomes amongst this demographic. CDF Freedom Schools® are restorative, transformational learning environments where every child’s strengths and abilities are encouraged. It denounces child deficit models and remedial activities that do not value or celebrate a child’s potential. Our program is guided by the following core beliefs:

  • All children are capable of learning and achievement at high standards.
  • Culture and community conditions influence child learning.
  • Appreciation and knowledge of one’s culture
    engenders self worth and the ability to live in
    community with others.
  • Education, teachers, and mentors are transformative agents.
  • Literacy is essential to personal empowerment and civic responsibility.
  • Effective teaching requires planning, creativity, and implementation, with reflection and processing.
  • Learning communities that offer a sense of safety,
    love, caring, and personal power are needed for
    transformative education.
  • Classroom discipline and management are integral parts of instructional practice.
  • Parents are crucial partners in children’s learning and agents. need supports to become better parents.
  • As citizens, children and adults have the power to
  • make a difference in their communities and be advocates for themselves.

To accomplish this, the program utilizes energetic young adults who are committed to these beliefs and can demonstrate a personal commitment to making life better for children. KCFSI hires 200+ college students each year to serve in the capacity of Servant Leader Intern to provide an enriching summer experience for our scholars. Since 1995, thousands of local children and families have been touched by the Kansas City Freedom School Initiative. The Kansas City community gains invaluable benefits from the thousands of college students who have been trained to deliver this empowering model that promotes a commitment to youth, social responsibility, and a strong ethic of civic engagement.

Parental Involvement

As children are nurtured, parents also gain support through their participation in weekly parent meetings designed to strengthen their parenting and child advocacy skills. Parents enhance their skill sets through weekly seminars where values of academic excellence, civic engagement, and social responsibility are reinforced. Recognizing the power of family-based education, the program adheres to a strict parental involvement policy. Parents of each scholar are required to commit to attending four weekly parent empowerment seminars designed to empower parents in their roles. The workshops encompass various topics and are community-based parent educators who work with children and families in various capacities. A vast majority of parents attended these informative seminars. In any given week 33-235 parents participated at sites, with as many as 1,137 attending these parent-enrichment classes across the total program. This represents a high percentage of the participating families because several parents have more than one child enrolled. The national theme for 2008 at all 138 CDF Freedom School sites was “Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.®” In addition to Program Orientation and the national theme, this year’s parent seminars included, but were not limited to:
When “No” Means I Love You Family Fun Night
Effective Parenting Tips Black Family Health Care Issues
Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline Health Resources in the Community
Teen Internet Usage & Safety Measures Welcome to Freedom School
Youth and Saving Strategies Exercise and Nutrition
The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together. Cultivating Creative Thinkers
How to Help My Child Prepare for College Financial Literacy
How Divorce Affects Your Children Family Ties That Bind
Techniques in Blending Families Love and Logic (Parental Communication)
Redirecting Children’s Behavior Keeping Our Children Safe
The Freedom School model requires strong parental involvement where parents volunteer daily as cooks, drivers, field trip chaperones, and especially guest readers in their roles as advocates, nurturers and primary educators. A typical parental education workshop addressed prevention and intervention strategies designed to assist families in breaking the cycle through education on key factors contributing to America’s “
Cradle to Prison Pipeline” crisis. “It is easier to build strong children than to fix broken men.” Attributed to Frederick Douglass

School District Partnerships
 Kansas City Public Schools