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2011 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Chicago Freedom School

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Student Services

Mission: The mission of the Chicago Freedom School (CFS) is to create new generations of independent thinking young people who use their unique experiences and power to create a just world. Our vision is in the spirit of the original freedom schools in Mississippi in the 1960s, with CFS serving as a catalyst for young people across Chicago to discover their own power to make change – not only for themselves, but also for their communities and the world.

Results: All of our organizational resources are allocated to support the leadership development of marginalized young people. Over 90% of Freedom Fellowship participants and alumni at the Chicago Freedom School are from low-income neighborhoods and 100% of them identify as people of color. Adult allies trained at CFS include professional youth organizers, public and private school educators, program directors at houses of workshop, and social service providers.

Programs: CFS provides training and education opportunities for youth and adult allies to develop leadership skills through the lens of civic action and through the study of the history of social movements and their leaders.

Community Stories

26 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I first learned about the Chicago Freedom School (hereinafter CFS) while an undergraduate. As a former public policy debate champion turned high school debate instructor, CFS' mission quickly caught my attention, and I knew that I wanted to get involved with the organization. It blends civic engagement and action through teaching about past social movements and making connections to current situations. It does so by engaging inner-city youth in discussions that lead them to think more critically and analytically. Youth develop a sense of individuality, while learning to collaborate with the community at-large, in addition to a sense of purpose and power that enables them to effectively translate ideas into actions.

Review from Guidestar

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

We have watched the Freedom School transform the most challenging youth into courageous young people with a true voice in their community. The adults at CFS are caring and connected these youth in their lives. Students learn to work towards critical goals and develop strategies for developing action plans.

Review from Guidestar

Genesis G.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I love this place, it's warm and welcoming. The minute you walk through the door (front or back, haha) you feel like your home! This place always has something going on, between meetings and open-events, its a place where youth and adults can come together with no boundaries. I love this place, it really is like a second home to me.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I came to know the Chicago Freedom School through my partner, who has been involved for several years. I've attended several public education events--all of them excellent--and also occasionally helped out. I know of no other organization that does such great work to improve the social understanding of political action, both in its history and in its practice. And in a time when public education is being transformed into a single, 12-year exercise in test preparation, CFS's work to help youth (and adults) think critically about the world is absolutely crucial.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Chicago Freedom School is incredible! I work with a childcare organization that helps parents participate in community organizing, and the Freedom School has been one of our biggest supporters. I am also a part of another collective focused on the prison industrial complex and popular education, and CFS has similarly served as a huge resource and ally to our volunteer-driven, grassroots-funded and/or un-funded work. Beyond even their own incredible programs, they do so much for the community that they are a part of. Thanks CFS!

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I had a chance to meet youth and staff from the Chicago Freedom School at a conference. We established a relationship and then I learned more about CFS. The CFS youth helped me by allowing me to interview them about their experiences w/CFS and what impact it had in their lives. I learned that it really helped them to recognize and pursue transformative justice in their lives and those around them. Then, the CFS allowed a colleague and I to visit and observe one of their programs in action. We witnessed the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline" training which they did in partnership with other organizations and we learned SO much from that. I appreciate, support and believe in the things that CFS is doing and HOW they go about doing things! Much love from Detroit!!!

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began to look at life differently thanks to Chicago Freedom School in 2009. Our program was all the way until May 2010. In our summer program, we received the chance to learn about oppression and build leadership skills. I never knew how these skills would develop throughout my outside life. In school I began to challenge my teachers and surroundings without even thinking about it. Being a liberator became my priority.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I became aware of Chicago Freedom School in late 2008 when I was able to sell my expertise in typesetting and design forms and documents for the organization. The staff made me feel welcome from the moment they met me but what really impressed me was the history of the organization and their commitment to the youth they serve. The organization practices what they preach. A source of inspiration for kids whether impoverished, misunderstood, minority, LGBT, etc. I am still very impressed by the entire staff and Mia Henry's dedication and drive.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Chicao Freedom School has blessed me with the experience of learning about history of people of color and the importance of social justice. The Chicago Freedom School has provided me with a safe environment and a support system I can count on whether I am in Chicago or away at school. The staff is a group of sincere people who care about educating the young and old about the injustices of the world and giving youth the confidence to change the world a little bit at a time.

I love this organization and I am forever indebted to what this organization has given me.

Review from Guidestar

Cristina R.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I became a Freedom Fellow in 2009 at the Chicago Freedom School. Through the trainings and the guests speakers I gained a lot of knowledge. I developed skills like, leadership skills and public speaking skills. I learned about issues that affected my community. In this place, I was able to talk to other youth and adults and I learned about oppression. This opened my eyes to reality and now I am able to step up to issues that make me feel uncomfortable.

Review from Guidestar

Jasmine T.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Chicago Freedom School Has changed my life and the way I view things in such a positive way. It gave me the chance to build good relationship with adults that I would usually have with my parents only. Here I feel safe. Here at Chicago Freedom School the world is mine to bring peace to. I have done many things that a youth without the chance wouldn't do such as The Freedom Rides, learning about oppression. I'm truly thank that i was involved and still am because I don't know where I would be. There is no event or emotion I regret.

Review from Guidestar

Karlah A.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

i was a 2009 freedom fellow at the Chicago freedom school, and now i am part of the youth leadership board. i was a very extremely shy person afraid of speaking up for what i believed in, and after taking part of this my views of the world have changed. i am no longer afraid of speaking my mind and saying whats right. i have conducted teen dating violence workshops to about 250 youth, and plan to do it this year again, the old me before this great opportunity would never in a million years thought i would be doing this. I have learned so much thanks to the freedom school, they are people who truly care about youth. they offer a space where we can learn to change the world little by little, it doesn't matter what gender you are, how young you are or what race you are.

Review from Guidestar

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I recently attended a CFS training. The organizers were prepared, eloquent, and poised to handle any question directed at them. In the past CFS has opened their space for other groups I am a part of to meet there when we didn't have our own space. They are truly committed to supporting anti-oppression struggles of every kind. CFS is fierce!

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have attended trainings and programs put on the Chicago Freedom School and have learned so much about how to make meangingful social change. Through the Midwest Youth Organizer Training I was enaged in dialogue and given resources which allowed me to think about how I support youth with whom I work in doing work around specific social justice issues while simultaneously developing their own identities and community organizing skills. The training at CFS was critical to the success of I program I ran the following summer.

As I have been involved with CFS I have consistently been involved by the breadth of programs they have which address social justice issues- whether it is events commemorating Haiti or a film screening followed by a panel disucssion about adolescents growing up without sight, CFS works to educate and bring people together in a way that is inspirational and imapactful.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

CFS is the best place for youth to go and just get away from the day. Being a freedoom fellow and a memeber of the Youth leadership board is jus wonderful The adults are ot like any adults you would ever meet, they are kind and dont judge like everyone else.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been volunteering on and off with CFS for a few years now, and from my experience it is one of the most comprehensive and effective social justice organizations I have come across. CFS has a broad vision that includes all levels of antioppression thought. From that basis they are able create extremely effective programs that target larger-scale, long-term systemic change through popular education. They exemplify what it means to be dedicated to dismantling the imbroglio of oppression, and they do it with loving kindness.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I began volunteering with CFS before all of its programs were up and running. Even in those early stages of its development, I learned how powerful grassroots organizing can be, especially when that organizing focuses on bridging the gaps between youth and adults. When CFS was still just an idea, young people were not just visible, but empowered to help make decisions that impacted the direction of the organization!

Since 2007, youth have continued to play a vital role in the functioning of CFS. As volunteers around the office, as representatives of CFS at national conferences, and as board members, the youth who are involved with CFS demonstrate that they are capable leaders.

I have been to several trainings hosted by CFS, including their adult ally training, which I believe the youth and youth organizer have begun making a must--have training for not-for-profits and grass roots organizations.

I could continue, but time does not permit me to do so. To sum up, CFS is an excellent organization.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

There should be something like a Chicago Freedom School available to every child in the country because it embraces young people and guides them on a justice-based path of learning. I've seen CFS youth bring a room to a steady buzz of excitement because they stand up to hold people accountable, or talk about a certain campaign. I've also seen CFS youth quite a room with their poerty and insight. In my work as a media and environmental justice activist I've worked with many youth organizations and collaborated with dozens of groups. Specifically, a good portion of this collaboration is working with the group to create a story or piece of media that is distributed at the community radio station I'm based at (Radio Arte). In this case I interviewed staff members and youth who were preparing to attend the US Social Forum in Detroit, a gathering of over 20,000 activists/artists/educators. i was amazed at the level of care given to the planning of how ach youth would have would experience the forum. I walked around the space between interviews and found every single radical/critical/amazing book and film I've ever come across. In that moment I know that this space was a place for transformation and guidance.

Review from Guidestar

Nadire L.

Board Member

Rating: 5

My connection with the Chicago Freedom School (CFS) began with me as an intern during my grad program. My experiences with the youth, staff, and volunteers reinforced that a positive, open, and intentional working environment is possible. CFS' self-awareness as a learning and growing organization is what makes it powerful. The staff modeled the roles of being effective adult allies to youth, which was crucial for me and consistent throughout my internship.

My experience as an intern in CFS continues to guide my growth as a social justice seeker.

Review from Guidestar

Board Member

Rating: 5

The Chicago Freedom School (also lovingly known as CFS), is an organization of dedicated, and sincere youth & adult allies working towards social justice in Chicago communities. Utilizing popular education, sound, sustainable strategy, and historical exapmples of past social and economic justice movements, CFS creates a space where true collabration and collective work have the opportunity to bloom. As a result, CFS has developed solid programming for youth & adult learners to be and become rooted activists. Chicago is a better place because of this organization, and will continue to grow in a positive direction. I am honored to be a part of the this family. Thanks to everyone at CFS for all you do!

Review from Guidestar