What We Do

The mission of the Chicago Freedom School is to create new generations of critical thinking young people who use their unique experiences and power to create a just world.  CFS provides training and educational opportunities for youth and adult allies to develop leadership skills through the lens of civic action and through the study of the history of social movements and their leaders.

Our Goals:

  1. To develop, nurture, and support leadership among youth ages 14 – 21 across Chicago.
  2. To create a space where youth from across the city can gather to share ideas and knowledge about civil rights and social change.
  3. To educate youth and adults about the history of social justice movements from multiple perspectives in order to provide a platform for more thoughtful action and organizing in the present.
  4. To build the capacity of adult allies to understand and support youth-led social change.
  5. To develop, sponsor and engage in intergenerational dialogue that supports social justice and where opportunities for organizing for change.

Chicago Freedom School founders recognized a need for a citywide effort to provide space and educational opportunities for young people to gain new skills, build alliances across neighborhoods, identities and ideologies.  CFS continues to be informed in purpose and program by the guiding principles and values established by our visionary founders.

Inspired and informed by the original Freedom Schools founded in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, CFS takes an innovative approach to civic engagement, leadership development, and movement building. Our programs, resources and trainings invite young people and adult allies to study of the work of past movements, deepen their understanding of current social problems, build new coalitions and develop strategies for change.

Youth Leadership Development

Freedom Fellowship: CFS’s centerpiece program featuring interactive popular education classes, anti-oppression training, and leadership skill building. Following an intensive summer program, CFS provides ongoing support to Fellows as they carry out action campaigns aimed at effecting social change in their schools and communities.

Youth Leadership Board: A group of CFS youth alumni work to ensure that youth are an integral part of organizational programs and initiatives. Among other efforts, YLB members cofacilitate programs, recruit and interview new staff and Freedom Fellows, and represent CFS in a range of settings.

Technical Support: As requested, CFS provides resources, consultation and facilitation for youth groups and youth development professionals.

Training and Organizing

Rev Up: This four-day national training for adults provides best practices to support youth organizing, capacity building, and youth-led programming. Rev Up combines issue-based organizing, leadership and identity development, movement building history, and anti-oppression practices.

Understanding Adultism and Building Partnerships With Youth: This half-day seminar helps adult participants understand and deconstruct the internalization of adultism and provide tools and resources through which adults can learn how to be responsible and effective allies to youth.

Anti-Racism Training For White Allies: This workshop explores how white privilege is manifested in individuals and society. Participants receive practices and tools to interrupt racism and learn how to take action against racism as individuals and as a collective.

Professional Development Trainings: CFS staff and facilitators design and provide customized offerings for schools, organizations and institutions on a variety of topics including: developing anti-oppression practices, understanding adultism, youth-lead campaign development, and more.

Smart Growth - CFS's Future Planning:

In late 2011, the Chicago Freedom School (CFS), embarked on an internal organizational assessment to define and commit itself to a path of “smart growth” for its next five years of operation.  This work was conducted both with the services of an external consultant, as well as led internally by one of the Chicago Freedom School’s founders, along with the active support and engagement of CFS staff, Board, youth and other supporters.

Read the Executive Summary in its entirety  here. The full report is available by request. 


The Chicago Freedom School is dedicated to promoting diversity and providing space that supports true equality by embracing all marginalized groups and identities, including but not exclusively people who identify as people of color, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, homeless, ex-offenders and those impacted by the juvenile justice system, and people with learning disabilities. We are committed to accommodating specific needs individuals may have accordingly and to providing facilities and materials that are accessible to all.