The RFP began as the Rosedale Community Youth Center in 2013 as a collaboration between students, parents, and educators in Rosedale. Inspired the successes of the 1960s Freedom Schools and of the Sunflower County Freedom Project, members of the Rosedale community came together to form an organization that could address the lack of opportunity that students face in this small town.
In 2013, Jeremiah Smith, then a Teach for America corps member teaching English at West Bolivar High School, began meeting with parents at the Riverside Missionary Baptist Church, organized with the help of Ms. Gale Towers, Ms. Kisha Ivey, and other parents in Rosedale. Together, this group identified several issues facing students in Rosedale: a lack of exposure to new places and ideas, a lack of access to college prep, and an after-school environment that did not include many positive opportunities beyond sports. After looking at various programs throughout the Delta, the group decided that the model of the Sunflower County Freedom Project seemed most promising for the community, and soon after they began visiting and talking with the SCFP.
In 2014, the RCYC partnered with WBHS teacher Jon Delperdang to bring students on trips to the National Civil Rights Museum and Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, to the Mississippi River Marathon in Greenville, and to the Mark Twain National Forest.
Meanwhile, the group discovered that the West Bolivar Christian Association, an organization originally founded by church leaders in Rosedale, had a building in Rosedale that was not being used. With the help of the WBCA board, the RCYC was able to move in and prepare for their first Freedom Summer.
With the help of churches, local businesses, and fundraisers organized by Rosedale students, the RCYC was able to raise enough money to host its first Freedom Summer in 2015. Generous donations from the United Way of Cleveland-Bolivar County, JanTran, the City Council, and several families in Rosedale helped the RCYC to have an extremely successful summer program, with Fellows growing 1.5 years in reading, raising their scores by over 20% in math, and making huge gains in fitness and leadership development. As a result of these successes and following negotiations with the Freedom Project Network, the Rosedale Community Youth Center was given Freedom Project status in late 2015.
The Rosedale Freedom Project resumed programming for Freedom Summer 2016, with its highest enrollment yet. Not only did the RFP work with more students, it also initiated a partnership with Freedom Summer Collegiate to provide high school Freedom Fellows with ACT prep and collegiate experiences. Following up on these developments, the RFP hosted programming throughout the school year, holding weekly photography and oral history classes.
Freedom Summer 2017 has been our most successful summer yet, and we are excited to be offering a full schedule of after-school programming in the 2017-2018 school year, including tutoring, novel studies, arts programming, mentoring, college prep, and Boy Scouts. In the upcoming year, the RFP hopes to expand its staff in order to offer more civics oriented programming to help Freedom Fellows take on more leadership roles in their community.