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Joy Harrington
1619 Freedom School

The 1619 Freedom School is proud to have received a grant from the Otto Schoitz Foundation


Waterloo, IA: The 1619 Freedom School has been selected as a grant recipient from the Otto Schoitz Foundation, a Waterloo-based philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of all individuals in the Cedar Valley. The funding will be used for materials necessary to operate the school in its inaugural year including school supplies and books selected for the school’s custom literacy curriculum.

“The Otto Schoitz Foundation grant award to the 1619 Freedom School reflects our commitment to fund excellent organizations working to reduce disparities in our community,” said Shelli Panicucci, Otto Schoitz Foundation CEO. “The original, meaningful and student-centered approach the 1619 Freedom School is taking to improve literacy will be impactful and long-lasting. We are proud to be a partner.” 

“Our team is grateful for this honor from the Otto Schoitz Foundation,” said Sheritta Stokes, co-director and curriculum coordinator for the 1619 Freedom School. “We are very excited to approach the first day of instruction in January, supported by this dedicated community partner. We look forward to working with Waterloo’s children and families to improve their literacy and reading skills and instill in them a powerful sense of pride.”

About the Otto Schoitz Foundation: The Foundation partners with not-for-profit organizations aligned with its mission to improve the health and wellbeing of all individuals in the Cedar Valley. Named after local philanthropist and industrialist Otto A. Schoitz, a Danish immigrant who became Waterloo’s top benefactor during his lifetime, the Foundation also shares roots with the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters who established a regional health care system nearly 150 years ago. The Otto Schoitz Foundation continues the tradition of serving to the benefit of its community following the legacies of philanthropist Mr. Otto Schoitz and the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters.

About 1619 Freedom School: The 1619 Freedom School is a free, community-based, after-school literacy program where students improve literacy skills and develop a love for reading through liberating instruction centered on 400 years of Black American history. The 1619 Freedom School will combine intensive, fun, and uplifting literacy instruction through a custom-designed curriculum built by expert educators from Georgetown University's Program in Education, Inquiry, and Justice and the University of Missouri's Carter Center for K12 Black History Education.
The school will be housed in the historic Masonic Temple in downtown Waterloo and already has plans to open a second location in the community center at ALL-IN-GROCERS, a new Black-owned grocery set to open in Waterloo in 2022.
Parents interested in enrolling their children should contact the 1619 Freedom School at
Please visit the school’s website at

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