Freedom School enjoys first in-person summer since pandemic

By Jessica Brodie

Freedom School just closed its eighth year of serving students in Columbia at Francis Burns United Methodist Church.

And in appreciation of the first in-person school since the pandemic and after two years of a virtual school, executive director Carol Singletary said, “It’s good to be back in person.”

Carmen White served as site coordinator this year, leading the limited group of 30 scholars through a socially distanced but inspiring summer of learning and enriching minds with culturally relevant literature and information.

White, too, said it’s been good to be back in person after too long apart.

“It’s really hard to deliver this through a screen,” she said, noting the scholars seemed to appreciate the learning experience and the new friendships.

A nationwide literacy program started 20 years ago by the Children’s Defense Fund, Freedom School is designed to give children a better appreciation of reading through books and discussions that address real-world situations, from race relations to poverty and more. The eye-opening books change yearly and are selected by experts across the nation. 

Jesse Caughman, 12, is a third-year participant in Freedom School and said the people are the best part of the school.

The fellow scholars are just fun to be around,” Jesse said.

Chandler Martino, 14, a first-year scholar, came because of trouble with reading comprehension and summarizing problems.

“Now I’m learning so many new words, and I can see a big difference in ELA, like with the five Ws and H—I’ve really progressed, and it’s inspiring me to keep going,” Chandler said.

Bryce Martin, also 14, has been a Freedom School scholar for several years now and loves the expectation of success.

“I’m not just a student, not just a kid. I need to be great here because I’m a scholar,” Bryce said, noting the vibrant energy and excitement is a big draw, as well. “It’s like my second home during the summer.”

And as for Haleigh Singletary, 8, a first-year Level 2 scholar, for her it is all about the mentoring relationships.

“I love being with Ms. Amaya and Mr. Miles and Ms. Jessica,” she said. “There are just very nice people here.”

To learn more about Freedom School and the Children’s Defense Fund, visit

To learn more about Freedom School at Francis Burns, call the church at 803-754-1760.

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