Meridian Freedom Project
The Meridian Freedom Project in Meridian, Mississippi is growing a corps of academically competitive, mentally disciplined, and socially conscious young leaders prepared to work for the betterment of themselves, their community, and the world. At the MFP, we believe that freedom means the power to make choices, so we are working hard to partner with our kids, their families, and our community for a future in which our students are free to access whatever educational, creative, and professional opportunities they want to pursue, and are committed to promoting justice wherever they go.
Beginning in the summer after their fifth-grade year, our students, called Freedom Fellows, participate in a seven-year fellowship in which they take on leadership roles by practicing the LEAD principles: Love, Education, Action, and Discipline. Through the practice of these principles, our Fellows work with staff and volunteers to build a socially just and loving community within our four walls that fosters academic excellence, social and emotional growth, and leadership development. At the MFP, we seek out learning opportunities inside and outside classrooms, strive to be proactive and engaged citizens, and work to be disciplined in our minds and their bodies. Our Fellows engage with these principles during their summers as rising tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders through our Freedom Summer Collegiate courses.
Each summer, Freedom Summer Collegiate instructors join our team and become integral parts of our work with Freedom Fellows. The hard work of our grad student instructors inspires our Fellows to explore new fields of study, chase down their curiosities, and get a taste for the world that awaits after high school graduation. Through these courses our Fellows develop the critical thinking skills that will help them to be successful in college while our instructors' personal experiences help our Fellows to imagine new possibilities for their own lives.
Students in Meridian face many struggles. Students attend schools that are still heavily segregated by race (students at Meridian High School are 93% Black/African-American) and socio-economic status(over 85% of students within the school system qualify for free and reduced-price lunch). Most recent U.S. Census data also reveals that at least one in three kids in Lauderdale County live below the poverty line. Our students also face significant out-of-school stressors like gangs and gun violence. Most recent data reports that Meridian is at approximately three times the national homicide average.
Academically, many graduates of the Rosedale schools are not prepared for the ACT, a necessary test for college admission; the average ACT score in Meridian is a 17, which is below the state average of 18 and the national average of 21. Meridian is a place with great opportunity, but many of our students lack access to those opportunities. We work hard to support our kids in overcoming these obstacles so that they can get on - and stay on - their pathways to college and choice.
What COURSES WE'RE INTERESTED IN
If you asked a Fellow at the MFP what he or she was interested in learning about, I guarantee you will be surprised by the answer. Recent initiatives to get young professionals in our building that represent diverse career paths has opened our Fellows’ eyes to opportunities that await after college. This also means that our kids have A LOT of interests. Our Fellows love to move, talk, debate, and explore things they don’t get a chance to learn about (or do!) at school. Whether it’s entrepreneurship, fashion, African history, engineering, psychology, or cyber defense, our kids are curious and crave more. Our Fellows are also excited to get to know you. Our most successful courses have been led by instructors that were willing to take time to genuinely listen to our Fellows and get to know them as people. We look forward to welcoming you to Meridian!
Where You'd Live: Meridian, Mississippi
Freedom Summer Collegiate instructors working in Meridian typically live about 10 miles down the street in apartments generously made available by our partners, Meridian Community College. You can learn more about the apartments here. In this area, referred to as College Park, you are in walking distance of necessities like CVS, an ATM, a discount grocery store, Big Lots, and several staple fast food chains. Around town with a car or a bike, you will find grocery stores, local restaurants and bars, shopping, a library, an opera house and community theaters, festivals, and a growing downtown. Meridian has a population of about 40,000 residents, but serves a much larger rural population in the surrounding counties, so we also have access to the basics like a mall and movie theater.
Meridian also boasts a rich music and arts scene. Between the Meridian Museum of Art, the Riley Center, the Temple Theatre, Meridian LIttle Theatre, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, and live music at restaurants like Weidmann’s and the Brick Haus, there are a lot of fun ways to spend a free evening or afternoon. Meridian is also uniquely positioned on the Mississippi Freedom Trail and an easy weekend drive or Amtrak train ride from destinations like New Orleans, Jackson, Tuscaloosa, Oxford, and the Gulf Coast. Other great local spots include the beautiful and huge Bonita Lakes Park, Harvest Grill (local favorite for a fresh, unique, and seasonal menu) and our local farmers’ market events at Earth’s Bounty.