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Faith-based literacy camp extends its reach to VISD students (w/video)

July 10, 2014 at 2:10 a.m.
Updated July 11, 2014 at 2:11 a.m.

Taniyah Matthews sings at Faith Family Church's Freedom School in Victoria. From 8:30 to 9 a.m. every day, the children sing, dance and read as part of the Harambe portion of the day. It's a time for all the kids to come together through song and dance.

Kendall Marshall leaned in closer to hear the story of how Joe Louis' 1938 victory over Max Schmeling, a hero of Nazi Germany during the reign of the Third Reich, impacted history.

Kendall, a Northside Baptist Church second-grader, was part of a group of students participating in a new summer literacy program called Freedom School.

The camp was organized by Faith Family Church, the Victoria school district and the Children's Defense Fund.

"My mom said it was a good idea because she wants me to learn more reading," Kendall, 6, said. "I've been really happy here."

At the start of Kendall's day at camp, she joined a group of about 40 VISD students and a team of interns and volunteers in morning songs and cheers inspired by a Swahili gathering called "Harambee," meaning "Let's come together."

Tammy Sestak, VISD director of federal programs, was at the camp Thursday morning at the school's location near the airport, reading to the students.

"It's nice to see the kids having a great time," Sestak said. "VISD provided the reading curriculum for the camp. It's been a really great community effort."

The program was inspired by the nationwide movement to enhance literacy and leadership within African-Americans during the summer of 1964, said Faith Family outreach coordinator Mark Longoria.

Amanda Bottoms, the program's Children's Defense Fund site coordinator, said she has enjoyed her time working with the students in Victoria.

"What attracted us to the Victoria project was Mark's focus on working with children and the relationship he wanted to help them build with Christ," said Bottoms, 23. "Some of the students we're working with have either ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or ADD (attention deficit disorder)."

The school is still looking for interested donors and looks forward to continuing the program next summer, Longoria said.

"What's great about the program is that it's free for the children," Longoria said. "If anyone wants to donate, we're open to that because we want to keep this going."

While she hopes students carry away better reading skills with them at the end of the summer, Bottoms said it's more important that they learn to like reading more than they did at the start of the six-week program.

"We saw a need in this area," Bottoms said. "We hope all our students find a love for reading because once that flame starts, it's one that never goes out."



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