Meridian Star

October 8, 2013

Freedom Project expands to Meridian

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     With its expansion into Meridian formally announced Monday at the Phil Hardin Foundation offices on North Park Drive, The Freedom Project successfully added their first site to the newly formed Freedom Project Network.

    Meridian Freedom Project founders joined supporters and dignitaries Monday at noon to welcome program to the area.

    "This program will not only enrich the lives of the students who participate but also the community," said Robert Ward, president of the Phil Hardin Board of Directors. "We will be replicating the Sunflower program of the Freedom Project which has proven itself to be hugely successful."

    In 1998, Sunflower County Freedom Project founders and Teach For America alumni Chris Myers-Asch, Shawn Raymond and Gregg Costa set out to establish a program to create more pathways to college for their students in Sunflower County. Fifteen years later, 100 percent of the students completing the Freedom Fellowship, a six-year-commitment to the Freedom Project, go on to attend four-year colleges and universities across the country.

    The Meridian Freedom Project is a year-round after-school program for middle school and high school students in the Meridian Public School District. Slated to open in June 2014, the program seeks to build a corps of academically capable, socially conscious and mentally disciplined young leaders in Meridian.

    "This is a great program and the district has always recognized the children need more than just the normal eight to three school curriculum," said Dr. Alvin Taylor, superintendent of the Meridian School District. "About ninety percent of the students are at poverty level and this program will enable them to take advantage of unique opportunities."

    The Meridian Freedom Project will begin during the summer of 2014. The Freedom Projects are led by Teach For America Alumna who returned to their roots to teach in the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta. The Meridian Freedom Project is made up of board members, Amy Elliott, chairman; Dr. Bill Scaggs, president emeritus of Meridian Community College; and Flo Bradley, CEO of FloBradley.com, who established an administrative collaboration with The Montgomery Institute.

    The Meridian Freedom Project is geared to students in grades sixth through 12th in the Meridian Public School District, beginning with those in grades sixth through eighth and progressing with them until they graduate from high school.

    The Meridian Freedom Project is funded in part by The Phil Hardin Foundation, The Montgomery Institute, Parents for Public Schools and AT&T.

    Anna Stephenson, who serves as program development director of the Meridian Freedom Project, has seen the project in Sunflower blossom to what it is today.

    "I have seen the power it has on Freedom Fellows in Sunflower," Stephenson said. "I cannot wait to watch it transform the lives of our Meridian students."

    For more information on the Freedom Project, its work in Mississippi and how to be involved, contact Anna Stephenson at astephenson.mfp@gmail.com or Amy Elliott at amycelliott@yahoo.com