Interview with Marquise Guzman, Senior Program Manager of Neighborhood Partnerships, Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies, Rutgers University-Newark


Founded in 2014, the New Ark Freedom School (NAFS) serves 3rd through 8th-grade students over six weeks, at Thirteenth Avenue Elementary School, in Newark, NJ. A product of the Civil Rights Movement and 1964 Freedom Summer, NAFS provides supplemental educational support to boost student confidence and motivation to read and generate positive attitudes toward learning. Launched through a collaboration between Rutgers Graduate School Newark, the Office of University-Community Partnerships, the Newark Fairmount Promise Neighborhood, and Newark Public Schools, NAFS is currently administered by the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies.  NAFS is one of over 200 Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools Programs. Marquise Guzman has led NAFS projects for the past three summers.

Using an intergenerational servant leadership model, local college students are hired to build the next generation of active citizens. Among the highlights of the NAFS experience is the CDF Integrated Reading Curriculum, or IRC, which aims to boost student confidence and build their understanding of self in a multicultural world. Afternoon enrichment activities are designed to complement IRC lessons, in addition to developing career awareness and efficiency through exploration. This enrichment block includes STEAM projects, health and fitness activities like Taekwondo, cooking experiences, and social action projects. Critical to the New Ark Freedom School experiences are service learning and social action opportunities to develop an awareness of societal issues and student-led solutions. New Ark Freedom School students host a National Day of Social action annually. Previous projects include town halls, youth rallies, legislative visits, and health awareness events. NAFS is designed and implemented to reduce summer learning loss, close achievement gaps, and prepare kids to make a difference in their communities, nations, and worlds. 


Each day begins Harambee, a Kiswahili word that means “let’s pull together,” energizing students for the day. Harambee components include Read Aloud, singing the program’s motivational song and cheers, a reflective moment of silence, and scholar recognition. Community guests and volunteers are invited to read a program or self-selected short story to our scholars during the read-aloud. Students then transition to IRC for the rest of the morning, followed by afternoon enrichment activities. 


A goal of the program is to provide evidence of student growth and development, socially and academically. To achieve this goal, the program team has been integrating the use of the Basic Reading Inventory (11th edition) pre-and post-test and SEL attitude surveys. Basic Reading pre- and post-tests help illustrate the program’s impact on academic growth, with over 95% of students maintaining or gaining instructional reading levels, in an average of 9 months. More than 90% of NAFS participants reported significant changes in attitude and behavior, specifically in student confidence, improved reading, and ability to solve conflicts via program surveys.


For more information about the program, 

  1. visit: https://cornwall.rutgers.edu/
  2. Contact: Marquise Guzman, 973-353-1023, [email protected]
Ronald Chaluisan


Experienced and Successful School Developer; Instructional Leader