Hundreds of children filled the bleachers at the St. Peter's World Outreach Center in Winston-Salem on July 14.
Some wore leis and tie-dye. Others had on cowboy hats and bandanas.
With costumes distinguishing each group, the students represented the city's nine Freedom School sites for the second annual Jubilee.
The schools kicked off their summer programming last month with each site serving between 30 and 50 K-12 students in primarily low-income areas.
The goal of these schools is to cultivate a love of reading in students through creative activities, community guest readers, and relatable material. The students read books about other children who look like them and face similar situations — something program leaders say is important.
At the annual Jubilee, the students from each individual Freedom School get to come together and see each other.
Dani Parker Moore, the executive director of the Freedom School at Wake Forest University, says this event mimics Harambee which is a Swahili word that means “Let's pull together.”
“It's what we do every morning at Freedom School, which is an energizing way just to uplift and get kids excited about reading, about the love of reading,” Moore explained.
It's safe to say that the children at the Jubilee were excited. Their chants and yells about “getting hyped” roared through the auditorium.
Though the students were all from different schools, they knew the same chants, dance moves, and lyrics. When a familiar song began to play, the children cheered.
Aside from seeing their teachers and fellow students, the children were introduced to different guests from the community.
Oscar Zuniga read the children's book “Dreamers,” by Yuyi Morales.
“She immigrated to the United States with her son, Kelly, in 1994 like me,” Zuniga said. “I came to this country in 1995.”
The book describes the journey Morales took with her son, their love, and the power of learning “to read, to speak, to write and to make our voices heard.”
The students also heard from radio personality Busta Brown who talked about success and the importance of being yourself not Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, or DaBaby.
“Success begins when you learn to be yourself. When you learn to be yourself, that's when you learn to dream your dream,” Brown said.
He told the students about his life from growing up poor and drinking powdered milk and eating powdered eggs, to auditioning for jobs trying to sound like other stars.
“I had a dream but my dream didn't come to pass until I learned to be myself,” Brown said.
Moore said this event was an opportunity to bring the students together, inspire them, and show them what a large, loving community they are in and of which they are a part.
“This was a huge energy and everyone is very much on a high of just being in community, and the music, and the cheers,” Moore said. “So this is something that I know that they'll look forward to for next year.”
Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.