Seigle Avenue Partners, best know for tutoring children in some of Charlotte’s poorest neighborhoods, has taken a new name: Freedom School Partners.

It also announced plans for major expansion.

Executive Director Mary Nell McPherson said the new name is meant to emphasize the group’s growing role beyond the Seigle Point community, where the group was founded in 1999.

Seigle Avenue Partners last summer operated nine Freedom Schools in low-income neighborhoods. The seven-week programs stress reading, conflict resolution and social action.

By 2014, McPherson said, the newly named organization hopes to operate a Freedom School in at least 43 Mecklenburg communities — one in each neighborhood where Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has a “focus school.” (Focus schools receive extra funding because of high poverty rates.)

Each Freedom School would serve up to 100 children.

“We’re going to need some strategic partnerships to make it work,” McPherson told “We need funders to make it happen… We need some creative thinkers on how we can get there.”

To spearhead the expansion, the Leon Levine Foundation announced a $300,000 gift to the organization.

The new name and expansion plans were announcements Tuesday as Seigle Avenue Partners marked its 10th anniversary with a donors/volunteers luncheon at Myers Park United Methodist Church. Children’s rights advocate Marion Wright Edelman delivered the keynote address.

Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, which operates the larger CDF Freedom Schools program, called the Charlotte program a “wonderful bellwether” for the national effort.

She said the United States must change the culture of how it views children.

When up to 80 percent of black and Latino children cannot read on grade level, she said, “We are sentencing this country to undue suicide.”

Edelman recalled growing up poor and black in Bennettsville, S.C., where society said she was not worth much and would not amount to much. But because parents, teachers and preachers said otherwise, she told the audience, she and others like her were able to see new realities.

“God did not create second-class children,” she said.

Edelman also encouraged the audience to lobby N.C. senators to pass universal health coverage. Just as seniors are ensured health insurance through Medicare, she said, so too should all children be insured.

“Every child should have health coverage in the richest nation on earth,” she said.

Editor’s note: Freedom School Partners needs summer volunteers who can read to children. Click here to learn ways you might volunteer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *