Introducing Deja Simley, a Senior Educational Studies major from Columbus, Ohio. On campus, Deja works as a Community Advisor, and works for the Education Department. She is a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated, and a member of the National Association of Colored Women’s, Incorporated. Last summer, Deja interned for Freedom Schools with the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF Freedom Schools) at their site in Newark, Ohio.

The CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a research-based multicultural model that supports K-12 students and their families. CDF Freedom Schools supports students and families in five main areas, which include: high quality academic and character building enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational servant leadership development, and in nutrition, health, and mental health.

As a Servant Leader Intern (SLI), Deja wrote lesson plans and found strategies on a daily basis to engage the students into the curriculum. She also did a daily meditation with her students to promote their overall health, but more specifically to focus on their mental health. Deja found that the most rewarding aspects of this internship were the abilities to gain actual classroom experience, lesson planning, and classroom management.

Deja learned many lessons from her experience as an SLI. Deja found that one of the most challenging aspects of her position was trying not to be a perfectionist. She said that as an SLI, “things are going to go wrong sometimes and it’s not necessarily your fault, but just learn from the things that don’t work and try again.” However, serving as an SLI enabled Deja to affirm that being a teacher is her calling. She learned that teaching is essential, and for that reason getting this experience was necessary for her to realize that.

Deja has some words of advice for Denison students who may be considering an internship with CDF Freedom Schools:

Communication is key to building a community.

It’s rewarding to teach if it’s what you want to do, but it’s draining. You have to prioritize yourself and getting rest because if you don’t, it’s going to affect you and your experiences teaching tremendously.

You are not going to be the perfect teacher and that’s okay! This time as an SLI is the time to figure out what works for you in regards to activities and ways to incorporate play into your curriculum. Overall, Deja really enjoyed her time serving with CDF Freedom Schools. If you want to learn more about her experiences or more about CDF Freedom Schools in general, you can connect with her on LinkedIn or email her at

December 15, 2022