NIA Cultural Center’s mission is to help improve the quality of life of the underserved youth and families of the City and County of Galveston; by preparing them academically, culturally, mentally and physically to attain productive futures. NIA means PURPOSE in Swahili.
Who is NIA Cultural Center?
Established in response to the growing problem of youth violence and unrest in the early 1990’s, NIA began as a Family Strengthening and Empowerment Program funded through the Community Youth Development program in 1992. NIA offered free youth mentoring, leadership development and life skills training through “Transformations” – a girl’s rites of passage program. NIA also provided family advocacy resources and parenting skills workshops via the Family Rites of Passage program.
Because we believe that every child has the potential to succeed, NIA has been working to provide free community programs, so they can do just that – succeed. Our programs are designed to help address and counteract the negative influences that contribute to poor achievement, diminished potential and several other adverse childhood experiences that continue to plague our community.
Tell us about the relationship between NIA Cultural Center and the Moody Foundation.
2018 marks the first year NIA Cultural Center has been afforded the opportunity to collaborate with the Moody Foundation for positive change in Galveston community. We were excited to be named an award recipient of the Generation Moody Education Initiative. Operating as a catalyst to boost student literacy, reduce summer learning loss, engage servant-leadership and promote professional development for social emotional learning, the NIA Cultural Center Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School (NIA • CDF Freedom School) program complements and actuates the mission of the Generation Moody Education Initiative by providing high quality, multigenerational (elementary, high school and post-secondary) educational opportunities in the key areas: literacy, science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
How did the Freedom School program begin and what makes it so significant?
NIA recognizes that Knowledge is Power. Championing the cause to defeat summer learning loss and address the huge disparity in achievement gap that has negatively impacted our youth, NIA launched the first Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School® program to Galveston County in 2007. The core belief of Freedom School® is that reading unlocks the door to a child’s potential. By providing summer reading enrichment for children who otherwise might not have access to books, the program plays a much-needed role in helping to curb summer learning loss and close achievement gaps.
Our K-12 scholars participate in a meaningful 6-week program based on three life-enhancing components: Literacy skills that ignite their passion for reading; Character strengths needed to make good decisions; and civic connection to a broader community that believes in them.
The visible and dramatic transformation we see in the students, teachers and parents who have participated in this program is what makes NIA • CDF Freedom School so very significant. However, if you ask our scholars what makes the Freedom School so significant, they would probably say it’s “Harambee” – a jubilant and electric movement with energizing cheers and chants to jumpstart the day. During Harambee we recognize each other’s efforts to make a difference. Harambee ends with read-aloud time when parents and community leaders.
The NIA • CDF Freedom School program also includes an Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC). The IRC successfully integrates the books, activities, games and field trips so they all relate to and reinforce each other. A superb collection of culturally relevant books allows our scholars to be able to see themselves in the story; reading stories that reflect their own images and building on the overarching personal empowerment and civic awareness “I Can Make A Difference” theme. We round out the summer learning experience with other fun and exciting learning opportunities such as web design, computer coding and digital storytelling.
The social action and civic engagement component teach our youth to engage in community service and social justice advocacy. Children learn to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills and become more responsible members of their community. Our scholars take part in a variety of activities for the National Day of Social Action, including visiting and writing letters to elected officials to joining together in marches, rallies and other educational activities.
Lastly, the intergenerational servant-leader component is an essential part of NIA • CDF Freedom School’s success. The program acts as a servant-leadership incubator serving two generations – the children served and the college students and junior interns who teach and serve them.
What are you using the funds for?
NIA used the Moody Foundation grant to provide NIA • CDF Freedom School staff with high-quality curriculum training, leadership development, classroom management and program material resources. It also helped cover operations for the program.
How many children and families do you serve each year?
In 2019 NIA Cultural Center and its various programs served over 1,200 children and families with student enrichment and family empowerment resources.
How do you hope NIA Cultural Center and its programs will grow in the next several years?
It is our hope that NIA Cultural Center and its programs will be able to grow in ways that increase our capacity to provide exceptional educational and cultural enrichment opportunities for more Galveston youth and their families and ensure sustainability of program offerings.