Ballenger Highway

Flint Freedom Schools Collaborative provides wraparound approach to community support

FLINT, Michigan — Founded in 2019, the Flint Freedom Schools Collaborative (FFSC), a local community support hub, was created as a part of the nationwide Freedom Schools Collaborative. 

In the words of Ashnee Dunning, FFSC’s executive director, “We are a culturally relevant literacy-focused collaborative solution to closing the educational gap.” According to Dunning, the organization does this by intentionally fostering positive self-esteem among students and families and encouraging the development of youth, young adults, and professional talent in Flint and Genesee County.

Marquetta Hall, the collaborative’s program director, distinguishes that FFSC is not a program  The organization lives out this mission by working alongside families to progrive comprehensive resources, ongoing programming, and support services to the Flint and the greater Genesee County area.


The Flint Freedom Schools Collaborative began its work as a nationwide Freedom Schools Collaborative branch utilizing the curriculum designed by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). With the help of Bethel United Methodist Church in 2016, the organization hosted its first Freedom School summer program site, in response to the Flint Water Crisis. The summer program offered a safe community space for children amidst the ongoing challenges throughout the city that disproportionately impacted Black and brown residents. 

In 2019, the New Evolution Educational Center began hosting CDF Freedom School summer program sites at Agape Church and Mt. Olive. From there, The Michigan Conference of the UMC and NEEC combined their efforts to develop the Flint Freedom Schools Collaborative (FFSC). Once FFSC was officially established in Flint, the goal was always to work alongside community members to ensure that all children in Genesee County have equitable access to support, opportunity, and success.

Since their official founding in 2019, FFSC has hosted their annual summer program, while also providing year-round services for families and community members to benefit from. Most notably, FFSC has been intentional about being a responsive resource hub to support community needs.

Kayla Shannon and Keonia Thompson with a scholar during an FFSC kayaking field trip.
Current Programs and Services

At the moment, FFSC offers several dynamic programs based on the wants and needs expressed by students, families, residents, and involved community stakeholders.

“Our programs prioritize academic and creative enrichment, community engagement, collaboration and positive culture cultivation, parent and family involvement, and intergenerational servant leadership development,” said Dunning.
  • Family Informed Year-Round Support: This initiative is aimed to provide multi-layered support to families throughout the year. By partnering with local organizations and community stakeholders, FSSC is able to cultivate a strong local village of support for families in need.
  • Talent Development Initiative: This program is geared to engage community-interested facilitators and program leaders in reflection, planning, and training necessary for youth advocacy, education, and program execution through four foundational pillars: personal strengths, interests, and purpose; professional development; academic planning and facilitation; and community engagement. 
  • CDF Freedom Schools: “Our CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a research-based and multicultural program model that supports K-12 scholars and their families through five essential components: high-quality academic and character-building enrichment; parent and family involvement; civic engagement and social action; intergenerational servant leadership development, and nutrition, health and mental health,” said Hall. Summer program applications will be open soon!

Similarly, FFSC also offers Flint and Genesee County residents an opportunity to engage in various services facilitated and hosted by the organization. Centering well-being and justice, these services allow community members to participate in several growth opportunities. 

Calvary UMC scholars and team members pictured after the FFSC Harambee event.
Get Involved

FFSC welcomes all community members interested in “ We are always looking for donations and community members to volunteer with us to support our programs,” said Dunning. Dunning also shared that there are several upcoming events that residents can look forward to volunteering and showing support.

Flint Uplifted By Us (FUBU), is a local fundraising initiative collecting donations from residents to support the costs of the organization’s programs. Dunning said, “By participating in this fundraiser as a donor, you will be able to help further the ongoing efforts at the  Flint Freedom Schools Collaborative so we can reach even more people.”

Community members can also look forward to Jingle and Mingle, a holiday fundraiser hosted by FFSC at Calvary UMC, on December 8th from 6 PM-8 PM. This fundraiser is designed to support FFSC and the local stakeholders it helps provide programs and services to. Volunteers and sponsors are welcome to complete registration forms as soon as possible. Tickets are also now on sale for community members interested in attending.

To learn more about the initiatives the Flint Freedom Schools Collaborative offers, visit its website and find it on Facebook.
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Read more articles by Brianna Nargiso.