new vans!.jpg
new vans!.jpg

Our ImpacT


Our ImpacT

Freedom Summer Every May, six to nine college interns come to Meridian from across the country to help teach reading, rhetoric and math to our middle school students. Fellows read civil rights-based novels; they take electives like art, French, cooking, or drama; and they participate in fitness every day! Students also go on camping trips to places like Selma, Birmingham, Little Rock, and Memphis. We end our summer with a week-long immersive experience at Mississippi State University. In summer 2016, Meridian Freedom Fellows won our second annual speech & debate tournament at Millsaps College, grew an average of 15+ points on their math exams, and grew an average of 5 months as independent readers - in just 5 weeks. 

Core Academic Support Our program is rooted in the belief that "education is the seed of freedom" and our students deserve the best education. Each day our staff and volunteers tutor students during study session. Our Fellows participate in Novel Studies, where students read four extra novels each school year. Our high school students begin preparing for college in 9th grade: applying to summer opportunities at Yale, Phillips Exeter and Andover and working with staff to take challenging courses. We also provide ACT Prep classes in partnership with the Freedom Summer Teaching Fellowship for students in the summer. In 2016, Meridian Freedom Fellows grew an average of 2.6 points on the ACT in just five weeks. 

Character Development Throughout the year, our Freedom Fellows work on developing into socially conscious leaders. From maintaining eye contact, to having a firm handshake, our Fellows know how important it is to make a good impression and to continuously work on being a strong leader. We are also cultivating our upper classmen to create an internal student leadership organization where members are elected leaders that help students with conflict resolution through peer mediation and restorative justice techniques.

Health Training Being healthy in Mississippi is extremely difficult - access to fresh foods can be limited and sidewalks are almost nonexistent. We work with students year 'round with fitness activities or working in the Freedom Garden. Freedom Fellows participate in Garden Club and have taken a Hunger Awareness class that is rooted in healthy eating and food justice. Freedom Fellows also know that only "LEAD foods" -- or healthy foods -- are acceptable to eat in our building. That means no soda, candy or junk food!

Educational Travel If you ask Freedom Fellows what their favorite part of the program is, most are likely to say "the trips!" You will find our vans travelling across the mid-south to provide students with rich and meaningful experiences wherever we go. Outside of our summer trips, each year we visit area colleges.  In the fall, we have a girls’ lock-in and a boys’ camping trip.  We reverse these trips in the spring – the girls go camping and the boys have a lock-in. Our Fall Break trips have taken us to Atlanta, Georgia and Tuscaloosa and Montgomery, Alabama. And in March 2016, Freedom Fellows traveled to North Carolina over Spring Break to camp, visit museums, and visit colleges like Davidson and North Carolina A&T. 

Arts Enrichment Although many public schools have been forced to cut enrichment programs, we fully believe the arts are integral to a young person’s development. Our Fellows can participate in Drama, which culminates in various performances, both local and out of state each year. Through a partnership with the Meridian Museum of Art, students also have access to weekly art classes at the LEAD Center. Additionally, we also offer dance, step, speech and debate, and visual arts. 


Meet some Alumni

While our first class does not graduate until 2018, we would like you to meet a few of the graduates from our affiliate, the Sunflower County Freedom Project. 

Meet some Alumni

While our first class does not graduate until 2018, we would like you to meet a few of the graduates from our affiliate, the Sunflower County Freedom Project. 


Lukendric Washington is a 2007 SCFP graduate and the first Freedom Fellow to attend law school! He received his Bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and last spring received a degree in tax law from Florida A&M. He first became interested in law when Shawn Raymond, Sunflower co-founder, took Luke around to see his own practice. The Freedom Project inspired Lukendric, to be himself and reach beyond his own boundaries. He hopes to one day open his own practice in Mississippi and protect low-income clients from violations of due process, something he became aware of growing up in the Delta. The most valuable advice he says he could give to current Freedom Fellows is to stick with the program no matter what.


Mykia Clayton is a junior student at Elon University and recipient of the Watson-Honest Scholarship. She is a declared Psychology major with a Theater minor. After a summer interning with Higher Achievement in Washington, D.C., a non-profit similar to the Freedom Project itself, Mykia developed a passion for education and would someday like to teach. She attributes her success at Elon to the Freedom Project and the values of L.E.A.D. that have been instilled in her since 7th grade. Mykia is looking forward to enjoying everything Elon has to offer as well as all the service opportunities, both domestic and abroad, that the Watson-Honesty scholarship provides.


Kenyon King graduated from the Freedom Project in 2012 and is now studying Finance and International Business as a senior at American University. Kenyon devotes his drive to explore internationally to the Freedom Project, which exposed him to the world beyond the Mississippi Delta, a rare experience for students his age. Lao-tzu's famous quote, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." was a permanent fixture at Sunflower during Kenyon's time as a Freedom Fellow, and such values have remained with him still as he progresses through his college career. He urges current Freedom Fellows to stay open-minded to new experiences and to welcome opportunities to reach beyond their comfort zone.


All Alumni

All Alumni

Every year, Sunflower graduates a cohort of 4-5 high school seniors and helps them in their college application process -- which truly began in seventh grade when they first joined the Sunflower County Freedom Project. 

Christopher Perkins, Class of 2006: Berea College

Jasmine Harvey, Class of 2006: Berea College

Rokeshia Ross, Class of 2006: Rust College

Candace Durn, Class of 2006: Mississippi State University

Lukendric Washington, Class of 2007: UNC Chapel HillFlorida A&M Law

Tambrinikia Gordon, Class of 2008: United States Army/Delta State University

Arquavious Gordon, Class of 2008: Louisiana State University

Cornesha Ward, Class of 2008: Howard University

Corey Johnson, Class of 2008: Jackson State University

Bryan Tucker, Class of 2008: Northwest Community College

Shaquille Leflore, Class of 2009: University of Southern Mississippi

April Hannah, Class of 2009: University of Southern Mississippi

Antonio Johnson, Class of 2009: Mississippi State University

Jockquelene Ward, Class of 2009: Mississippi Valley State University

Oryan Griffin, Class of 2009: University of MississippiUS Navy

Yolanda Durn, Class of 2009: Mississippi Delta Community College

Fredrick Hannah, Class of 2010: Bellhaven University

Amberly Dennis, Class of 2010: Mississippi State University

Lasonja Johnson, Class of 2011: Mississippi State University

Jalishia Tyler, Class of 2011: Mississippi State University

Shawneequa Powell, Class of 2011: Mississippi Delta Community College

Shavondria Washington, Class of 2011: University of Southern Mississippi

Shiega Griffin, Class of 2011: Jackson State University

Michael Burse, Class of 2011: Mississippi Valley State University

Laquita Minton, Class of 2011: Alabama Community College

Olivia Sykes, Class of 2011: Mississippi Valley State University

Shamira Weeks, Class of 2011: Mississippi Valley State University

Kenyon King, Class of 2012: American University

Mykia Clayton, Class of 2013: Elon University

Bre Lewis, Class of 2014: University of Memphis

Ashanique Johnson, Class of 2014: Delta State University

LaToysha Brown, Class of 2014: University of Southern Mississippi

Primus Apolonio, Class of 2014: Henderson State University