ABHMS hosts graduation for Rizpah’s Children partnering organization

VALLEY FORGE, PA (8/21/19)—Cheered on by staff, parents, guardians and friends, students of a six-week Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom School accepted certificates during a graduation ceremony on Friday hosted by American Baptist Home Mission Societies at its Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia, Pa.

The graduates were among 64 students aged 6 to 13 who had attended the CDF Freedom School established in July at Philadelphia’s Somerset Academy Early Learning Center, a partner of ABHMS’ Rizpah’s Children ministry.

“We are all so very proud of you, the scholars of Somerset Academy Early Learning Center,” said ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray in his welcoming remarks. “You are outstanding. You inspire us all with your dynamic energy. You represent hope for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

“ABHMS,” he added, “has been very blessed and very pleased to sponsor this inaugural Freedom School at Somerset Academy Early Learning Center.”

While Somerset Academy had offered preschool, after-school care and summer camp for children from infancy through age 13, the Freedom School offering was recently added. The school was provided free to families through a grant from the Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust, administered by American Baptist Foundation and awarded during ABHMS’ 2018 grant cycle, as well as a 2018 Rizpah’s Children partner grant provided by ABHMS.

The congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Spring House, Pa., was acknowledged for its ongoing behind-the-scenes support of the school. In addition, the Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner-Triplett, ABHMS director of Healing and Transforming Communities and Rizpah’s Children, and Laura Alden, publisher of Judson Press, announced the donation of 30 children’s books to establish Valerie’s Children’s Library at the school in memory of Valerie Renee Williams, daughter of Bethlehem Baptist’s first lady, Tanya Quann.

Before engaging the students in a question-and-answer session, abstract artist Moe Brooker recounted his South Philadelphia childhood and offered encouraging remarks to the students.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be what you want,” he told them.

The students demonstrated a variety of Freedom School activities, including the Harambee Circle, African martial arts as well as cheers and chants that they created.

Before leading the closing prayer for Somerset’s scholars and staff, Dr. Tamara Hill-Bennett, a Philadelphia area optometrist, asked the children: “Who wants to be a doctor?” “A musician?” “A fashion designer?” “The next president of the United States?”

After the ceremony, each graduate received a sizeable backpack of school supplies donated by ABHMS employees. ABHMS also presented the school with four Dell computers, monitors, a printer and an electronic tablet.

CDF is a national nonprofit organization that advocates for children. Growing out of the Civil Rights Movement, it was founded in 1973 by Marian Wright Edelman, who now serves as its president emerita.

Located in 87 U.S. cities in 28 states, CDF Freedom Schools stress reading and positivity. ABHMS hopes to engage its partners to help establish additional Freedom Schools nationwide.

Learn more at abhms.org > Mission Stories.

Founded in 1824, Judson Press is a publishing ministry of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, American Baptist Churches USA. It is committed to producing Christ-centered leadership resources for the transformation of individuals, congregations, communities and cultures.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.