East TN

Freedom Schools®

  2019 Assessment Data

  • Most children, 86%, improved or maintained their 
    instructional reading level.

  • 90% of parents say

    • child is a better reader 

    • child believes they can make a difference

    • they will be more engaged in child's school work.

  • Children participated in social action against gun violence and demonstrated self-empowerment.

East TN

Freedom Schools®

  2018 Assessment Data

  • Most children, 100%, improved or maintained their 
    instructional reading level.

  • 90% of parents say

    • their child is a better reader 

    • their child believes they can make a difference

    • they will be more engaged in child's school work.

  • Children participated in social action to increase voter participation and demonstrated self-empowerment.

East TN

Freedom Schools®

  2017 Assessment Data

  • Most children, 84%, improved or maintained their 
    instructional reading level.

  • 90% of parents say

    • their child is a better reader 

    • their child believes they can make a difference

    • they will be more engaged in child's school work.

  • Children participated in social action by protesting against planned cuts to SNAP/EBT with a  march on Gay Street & Market Square.

Give us a call:


The Freedom School Story

The Children’s Defense Fund’s (CDF) Freedom Schools® program is a six-week long summer enrichment program with 3 hours of reading per day. The program helps children fall in love with reading, increases their self-esteem, cultivates positive attitudes toward learning, and reduces summer reading loss—one of the major challenges affecting poor and working-class children. With the help of a researched-based curriculum that is based on culturally responsive books that reflect their own images and caring and supportive college students that serve as teachers, Freedom Schools successfully address summer reading loss and a related decrease in students’ motivation to read.


In addition to offering high-quality academic enrichment, CDF Freedom Schools supports children and families in the areas of parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational leadership development, and health -- physical, mental, and nutritional. With the support of caring adults and communities we will aid our children’s successful journey into adulthood.

The scholars we serve at the CDF Freedom Schools are primarily children who are members of underserved families. Attending our school is FREE for all families and children 5-18 are eligible. We create a fun learning environment in every classroom where the child-to-teacher ratio is 10:1.

The teachers at Freedom Schools, our next generation of leaders, are college students and recent college graduates. We invest in them by providing them training at the annual Ella Baker Child Policy Training Institute that is held at the CDF Alex Haley Farm in Clinton, Tenn. and at facilities in Knoxville, Tenn. We call our teachers Servant Leader Interns (SLIs) and the knowledge and experience they receive at the Training Institute prepares them well to teach the program and advocate for children.

Our site in East Knoxville will host 60 scholars, 6 Servant Leader Interns, and a Site Coordinator. Our Blount County site will have the same number of scholars and staff. The site at Maynard Elementary will host 50 scholars, 5 Servant Leader Interns, and a Site Coordinator. One Project Director will be responsible for all three sites. Scholars will have two meals and one snack per day, one field trip per week, and a variety of afternoon activities including robotics, STEM, money management, debate, public speaking, physical fitness, and art.

Executive Director and Project Director: 

Denise J. Dean is passionate about and committed to the betterment of children. She uses her corporate experience and elementary teacher experience in service to creating a high-quality educational and developmental experience for your children. 

Freedom Schools Literacy Curriculum Consultant: 

Evetty Satterfield has championed youth for over 10 years! She holds a Special Ed degree from Alabama A&M University and a Masters in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. She has served in various capacity with Children's Defense Fund Freedom School for a total of 9 years. She believes that the key to educating our scholars are educators who are able to love our kids unconditionally and remove any and every barrier for them to achieve success.

East Knoxville

Site Coordinator:

T'Aisa Hobdley currently works for Knox County Schools as an interventionist teacher’s assistant. She has been with KCS for three school years now. She has a passion for children and seeing them excel in every way possible. She is married with two lovely children, a 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. She attends The University of Phoenix and is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. 

Servant Leader Interns: 

Gabi Schmidl is from Atlanta, GA. She is currently finishing her senior year at the University of Tennessee. She is pursuing a Child and Family Studies degree with a concentration in PreK-3 Education. She enjoys playing guitar, spending time with friends, and playing with her dog,

Zeus. She is excited about working with the children and staff this summer!

Kiara Moore is from Morristown,TN. She currently attends Lenoir-Rhyne University where she will be a senior year in the fall. She is a member of both the women’s basketball teams and the track and field team. I am a religious studies major with a concentration in counseling with the hopes of  pursuing a master’s degree in school counseling. In my free time I like to spend time with loved ones, travel, and read. I am super excited to serve as a Student Leader Intern this summer!

Naomi Shumpert is graduate for Hardin Valley Academy and a soon to be English major! She co-founded Hardin Valley’s first Black Student Union,is an athlete on the HVA track team, and is a member of Knoxville Alliance for Race Education (KARE). As an avid reader and poetry lover; she can always be found with a Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou book. She also enjoys mindfulness activities such as yoga and meditation. She is looking forward to serving your children and the community! 

SLIs for Middle Schoolers at Boys & Girls Club

Carmela Lewis is a rising sophomore at Maryville College as a biology major. She is involved with multiple STEM-related clubs on campus and is on a Board of Directors for a nonprofit, Build for Bees. In her free time, she enjoys roller-skating, scuba diving, hiking, and volunteering around the community. Her goal is to help provide equal opportunity and services to all. This is her first year as a Servant Leader Intern, and she is elated to get to work and connect with everyone around her!

Jalen Jones is from Knoxville TN and currently attends Carson Newman University working on a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. After graduation he wants to return to Knoxville and make a positive impact on his community wherever that may be. He hopes to enter the field of politics to change his community for the better from the roots! He is the founder and president of Young Adults for Equality which is an organization that strives to enlighten and educate our community about diverse cultures and individuals so we can help people understand life is not so much about "what" we are but it's more about "who" we are! 


Site Coordinator:

Sierra Cotham is currently a K-5 teacher in Hamilton County Schools. She holds a Bachelor's in Elementary Education from Lee University. Sierra is a lover of reading and learning! She has loved and served the Freedom Schools Program for three years and is excited to support the program another year.

Julia Watson is a Freshman at Fisk University. She has a passion for serving and helping children become their best selves. 

Kayla Racine is a Student Athlete at the University of Tennessee in undergrad majoring in Child and Family Studies with concentration of community outreach. She also has some background in American Sign Language. Kayla loves reading books on race and racism and enjoys being active and spending time with kids. 




Blount County



Site Coordinator:

Julia Walkegrew up in Alcoa, Tennessee. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Early Child Development from Maryville College and a Masters of Educational Leadership from Bethel University. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at Liberty University. She works in the Blount County School system in Maryville where she teaches Social Studies, and is the administrator of an after-school program, Crown Academy. Her educational passions are related to developing strong relationships with students and parents and closing the academic achievement gap for impoverished students. Julia has four wonderful children and is the wife of Joel Walker, a pastor in the Church of God in Christ. She loves reading, playing Scrabble, and consignment store shopping. 

Servant Leader Interns: 

Kaitlyn Foust is a rising Senior at Maryville College. She is majoring in Child Development with Learning and minoring in American Sign Language. After she graduates she would love to continue her education in order to become a special education teacher. Kaitlyn enjoys reading, meeting new people, and working with kids!

Martina Junod is a new graduate from Maryville College. She just earned her Bachelor's in English with Teacher Licensure. She loves reading and performing arts. She is job-searching for a teaching position in the East TN area in a public middle or high school. She loves matching good books to energetic scholars.

Maylee Warren is from Dublin, Georgia and recently finished her time at Maryville College with a Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare. The upcoming school year she will be continuing to get her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Tennessee Wesleyan University. After graduating, she plans to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner with a focus in pediatrics as she loves to work with kids. Maylee enjoys arts and crafts, making new friends, and working to make a more welcoming community for all! 

Research Team & Site Test Managers (STM):


Natalie Hassett is a School Psychology doctoral student in the Dept. of Educational Psychology & Counseling at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she also earned her master's degree. In 2018, she graduated from Clemson University earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Natalie is an active member of a research group in the College of Health & Human Sciences led by Dr. Steve McCallum and Dr. Sherry Bell. She has worked on several research projects focusing on literacy assessment and instruction as well as the identification and screening of students for dyslexia and intellectual giftedness. In her free time, Natalie enjoys exploring Knoxville, TN and loves spending time with her family and community. 

Meredith Hawk holds a Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee, and works to promote a love of reading for all children in Knox County. In her free time, Meredith enjoys crocheting, reading, and spending time outdoors. She is excited to work with the scholars and staff at Freedom Schools this summer! 


Olivia Bessie Walker is a Special Ed TA at Sarah Moore Greene Magnet Academy.



 Our Staff 

ETFS - Kiara Moore Pic.jpg
ETFS Staff at Home.heic
D.E.A.R. Time.HEIC
Kiara & Scholar.HEIC
Joseph dressed for Spirit Week.HEIC
Scholar Reading.HEIC
Julia Watson.heic