Amaya Young stood in a circle of twelve other young people and recited the Meridian Freedom Project Pledge Wednesday.
The 12-year-old knows that activities like this are just one benefit to belonging to this special group.
“I get to be with teachers who I really love and with people that are like true friends, good people,” Amaya said with a big grin.
Amaya is one of many Freedom Fellows spending their summer at the Meridian Freedom Project, an an organization that aims to develop future leaders. This is the sixth year the organization has held a summer program, called Freedom Summer, tying it in with the 1964 Freedom Summer.
The summer program has two parts, one for middle schoolers and another for 10th to 12th graders.
During the morning, fellows take rigorous courses in math, rhetoric, speech and language arts. In the afternoon, they take electives in drama, dance, chess, poetry, gardening and other subjects.
O’Marion Hutson, 11, signed up for a chess class, but thought the game would be boring. He soon discovered he enjoyed it.
“I really like it a lot," he said. "I learned it as soon as I came here."
Fellows also got a chance to get out of Meridian for a few days. Last week, Amaya joined a group of other fellows on a trip to Millsaps College, where they learned about speech and debate.
Terrence Roberts, director of literacy at the Meridian Freedom Project, said the classroom portion of the program is winding down. The fellows will soon visit various colleges around the state.
“It gives them a chance to experience education they may not get in regular school, and hopefully give them a head up,” Roberts said.
As the fellows look ahead, they are encouraged by the words of U.S. Rep. John Lewis written on their Meridian Freedom Project t-shirts.
“You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe," the quote reads. You have to have courage, raw courage.”
“I want to take the time to read it, so I can clearly understand it, and what it means to be at the Freedom Project,” Amaya said.