We need to build an understanding of the events that shape our lives as they happen, not when it is too late to do anything about it. Therefore, the Freedom School works to provide learning opportunities year round while encouraging the public to participate in public forums and events.
The Freedom School in Licking County aims to:
- Educate adults for leadership development;
- Educate for social change;
- Develop leadership grounded in experience with the practical problems of our communities;
- Study the past, present, and future of our communities in a global society;
- Engage in an empowering community educational process based on talking, listening, and learning from each other as we work toward solving the problems we face.
Explore our site further to find out how you can increase your participation and awareness: attend a screening through our Film Series, peruse our Lending Library, and find import[ant meeting] dates and times for Community Events.
The Freedom School in Licking County is an all-volunteer organization. We rely on hard work and donations to keep our events free. Your support is vital. We are a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. All contributions are tax-deductible.
The Freedom School in Licking County began in 2010 with informal community conversations around the issues of transportation, the environment, labor history, and housing. During the next two years, we hosted community conversations, film showings and book discussion groups on these topics in churches, bars, living rooms, union halls and the Licking County Library. In 2012, we were incorporated in the State of Ohio as a nonprofit organization and were granted 501 (c) 3 federal tax-exempt status.
Our focus is education for community empowerment. We take our name and our inspiration from the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights movement in the American South, and our educational philosophy from the popular education movement begun in Brazil by Paulo Freire, who taught that people should learn to “read the world” and understand the past to build the future. Our events are free and we rely on donations for our operations.
The current board of The Freedom School of Licking County includes leaders from many different areas of our community. Keep reading to learn more about this exceptional group of community leaders.
Bonnita “Bunny” Bowers joined the Board of The Freedom School in 2015. She was born in Lima, Ohio. Even though no one in her family had ever gone to college and her father wanted her to be a secretary, she had other expectations for her life. She attended Ft. Wayne Bible College in Indiana, Southwest Texas State University, and The Ohio State University during the years she was raising her children. Even though her responsibilities prevented her from obtaining a degree, she always found ways to reflect on her activities and continue her learning experiences.
Her primary interest has been in social work and in helping people to learn to take care of themselves. She worked first in a Juvenile Detention Center in Ft. Wayne. For 25 years she was a Case Manager at the Northwest Center for Human Resources in Lima, Ohio, after serving as a leader in a group home for men and as a day care leader for the severely mentally disabled. In 1999, she moved to Newark and retired from social work to become the caregiver for two of her grandsons when they were 6 and 8 years old.
Today, her grandsons are grown into fine young men, and Bunny still lives in Newark with her husband and daughter, where she is raising foster children and trying to help educate people through her volunteer work in the community. She is a volunteer with Move to Amend, the group working to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United. She has been active with the Citizens’ Committee on Housing in Newark and has studied with the Freedom School since 2012.
Her vision for the future includes building the Freedom School’s educational program in order to help people learn to make a difference in their own lives.
Dennis Bowers joined the Freedom School Board in 2015. He is an Outpatient Therapist at Behavioral Healthcare Partners and also has a private practice in Newark. He has more than 45 years of experience in the field of mental health, including both counseling and therapy, in six mental health centers in three states.
Dennis began his career with a missionary spirit to help bring mental health to people, a goal that he has never relinquished, although he thinks that the economy today presents a great obstacle to that goal. He credits the Freedom School with offering education for social consciousness which can help foster mental health.
Before joining the staff of BHP in Newark in 1999, Dennis worked in the Psychiatric Unit of St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, his home town, where he also ran a Group Home for Men, a Group Home for Women, and a Day Treatment program. He also worked in mental health centers in Oklahoma and Texas.
His education includes a B.A. In Theology (Pastoral Training) from Taylor University in Ft. Wayne, Indiana; an M.A. in Psychology from St. Francis University, also in Ft. Wayne; an M.S.W. in Clinical Social Work from The Wharton School of Social Work at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas; and post-graduate work at the Gestalt Institute in Cleveland.
Dennis is proud to have raised two daughters who are social workers, and delights in his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He lives in Newark with his wife of 50 years and enjoys growing his garden, working on his 1968 Volkswagen, and running. He has been part of the Freedom School since 2012.
Daniel Harrison Crawford III credits his late mother, Starla Kay Hunter Moran, with fostering his work ethic, his love of family, and compassion for others.
Dan is a graduate of E-COT (2003), the electronic on-line high school in Ohio. In 2013 he received a BS in Political Science and Government from Ashford University, with minors in History and Public Administration. He has been part of Freedom School study groups since 2012.
Consistent with his life-long interest in public affairs, Dan helped found the Licking County chapter of the “Occupy” movement called “The 99% of Newark and East Central Ohio.”
In 2015, he ran as an independent-minded Democrat in a six-way race for an At-Large seat on the Newark City Council. In keeping with his principles of “getting the money out of politics,” he refused political contributions from organizations and capped contributions from individuals at $250.
In 2015, Dan was elected to serve as Second Vice President of the Licking County Democratic Club, where he also served as past Chair of the Constitution and By-Laws Review Committee. He was elected to the Board of the Freedom School in Licking County in 2016.
In 2015, he published a political novel called “The Politician: Crisis,” the first of a planned trilogy. He also writes a weekly blog on his website.
Dan is employed as a Front End Coordinator at Giant Eagle. His education and understanding of the economy spring from his work over the course of more than ten years as an employee in the temp industry in Licking County. He is divorced and lives in Newark, where he has custody of his two young children.
David Greene is a founder of The Freedom School in Licking County. He served as President of the Board from 2012-2016.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1945, David was educated at Brooklyn College (B.S., 1966), the University of Maine (M.S., 1968) and The City University of New York (1990-1993). He has been an innovator in the field of adult learning. He founded the Southern Appalachian Labor School in West Virginia in 1979 and co-founded the Paolo Freire Institute for Popular Education and Social Change in 1997. He is co-author of“Working Hands, Working Minds: A Vocational Education Curriculum“ published in 2001 by YouthBuild USA and author of Unfit to Be a Slave: A Guide to Education for Liberation (Boston: Sense Publishers, 2015).
David was named educator of the year in 1996 by the Literacy Assistance Center in New York for “Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Adult Education.” He served as member of the Delegates’ Assembly of the United Federation of Teachers from 1989-2008.
David retired to Licking County in 2009 after 45 years of teaching. In addition to his work with the Freedom School, he volunteers as Chairman of the Committee on Community Service of the Licking County Retired Teachers’ Association. He served as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Property Maintenance for the City of Newark and volunteered as Garden Coordinator for 6th Street & Growing Community Gardens.
Janet Wells Greene is a founder of the Freedom School in Licking County and served as Vice President of the Board from 2012-2016. She is a native of West Virginia and has lived in nine states. In recognition of her lifelong efforts to bring labor history to the general public, she was awarded the prestigious John Commerford Award by the New York Labor History Association in 2010. Her research interests include the history of labor, technology, and public relations in industry. Among her publications is a curriculum guide for 7th and 8th grade teachers entitled From Forge to Fast Food: Child Labor in New York State From Colonial Times to the Civil War (Russell Sage College: The New York Labor Legacy Committee, 1994).
Her career in non-traditional education for adults began in 1978 at The Highlander Center in Tennessee as Co-Director of Development, where she worked with and learned from Myles Horton. She served as a founding faculty member of the Southern Appalachian Labor School at the West Virginia Institute of Technology; Director of the Harry Van Arsdale Labor Documentation Project of the Wagner Labor Archives/Tamiment Library at New York University; Historian and Director of the Library of The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York; and Assistant Professor of Labor Studies at the Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College of the State University of New York.
She is a graduate of Maryville College in Tennessee (English, 1968) and earned advanced degrees from The Ohio State University (M.A., English, 1972), Northern Illinois University (M.A., Library Science, 1974), Stanford University (A.M., History, 1978) and New York University (Ph.D., American History, 2000).
Janet retired to Newark, Ohio, with her husband David Greene in 2009, where she has worked to develop the resources of the Freedom School, including its library and industrial history tours. She has been a volunteer at the East Side Food Panty, served on the Citizen’s Mobility Committee for the City of Newark (2011-2015), and was past president and member of the board of the 6th Street and Growing Community Gardens (2010-2014).
Tim Huffman joined the Board of the Freedom School in the fall of 2015. Originally from Western Pennsylvania and Bethesda Maryland, he graduated from Capital University and the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Bexley, and received his PhD in Theology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, studiously avoiding the golf courses. He has served in a wide variety of ministry settings in the US and Scotland, including as a chaplain at the old and horrible Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, which erased all naivete.
Huffman became professor of Systematic Theology at a Lutheran seminary in Hong Kong, and returned to Columbus teaching religion and Mandarin Chinese at Capital University and then serving in the Kuder Chair of Christian Mission at Trinity Seminary in Bexley. He has studied and worked on 5 continents, learning from the theology of the two-thirds world, and especially the theologies of liberation, while using the insights of Paulo Freire in his own work.
He has two accomplished sons and four exceptional grandchildren, and is married to Pastor Miriam Schreck.
David McElfresh is Vice President of the Board of The Freedom School in Licking County.
David was born in Newark and has lived in Licking County for his whole life. He has been a Firefighter and Paramedic with the Newark Fire Department for more than 28 years. In 2011 he was named Newark Firefighter of the Year.
After graduating from Lakewood High School in Hebron, OH, in 1985, David attended Hocking Technical College, where he earned an Associates Degree in Recreation and Wildlife in 1987. He worked at the Westinghouse plant in Newark from 1987-1988, and obtained certification as a Paramedic from Columbus State Community College in 1989. He joined the Newark Fire Department in 1988.
David is active in his community. He currently serves as President of his union, the International Association of Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 109, where he has been a member of the Executive Board and the Negotiating Committee since 2002. In 2006 he organized the Local 109 Political Action Committee and currently serves as its Chair.
He was elected President of the Licking, Knox, Muskingum, and Coshocton Labor Council in 2015 after serving terms as trustee and Treasurer. He is a member of the board of the Licking County Labor Agency, a United Way agency to help working families in Licking County. He is active in the Central Ohio Area Labor Federation. He is also an active member for the Ohio Association of Professional Firefighters (OAPFF), where he serves on the Board of the Legislative Affairs Committee and the Secondary Employment Committee.
David has two children and three grandchildren. He lives in Newark with his wife Kelly and his two stepchildren.
Dave Martin joined the Freedom School Board in 2017. As a former president of UAW Local 1037, Dave is deeply interested in education. He has been active with the Freedom School Labor Education Committee in Licking County, lending his insights and his sound system to many events. He has worked with the Freedom School Publicity Committee since 2013, designing signature flyers and posters for events, including the Third Thursday Films series and the annual picnic.
In 2014, Dave and his family faced the challenges brought by the closing of his workplace, Arvin Meritor in Heath, where he worked for 21 years. In 2017, he became a staff technician at a local radio station, using skills he acquired following his layoff. He attended Ohio University Zanesville under the Trade Readjustment Act for three years and received his Associate Degree in Applied Technology (Electronic Media) in 2017. As the owner of an independent film and video production company, Dave’s Video Integrated Productions, he creates films and commercials for local businesses and non-profit organizations. He was a key member of the technical team on the documentary video “Breathe Free” for the Columbus Crossing Borders Project in 2017.
Dave has always enjoyed learning new skills. He graduated from Newark High and the Licking County Joint Vocational School in 1987 as a certified welder. He worked at Modern Welding in Newark for three years. In 1991, he trained as a truck driver to increase his earning power, and drove cross-country to New York City for North American Van Lines and Zumstein Inc. for the next two years.
He was able to give up long-distance driving in 1993 when a position opened at Rockwell International in Newark, a manufacturer of truck axles which later became Arvin Meritor. For the next 21 years, Dave worked in the plant, learning as many different types of jobs as he could. He also became active in his local union, and served as steward, vice president, and president of UAW Local 1037.
His education as a trade unionist took place on the job and at the UAW school in Black Lake, Michigan. When the plant closed in 2014, he took the opportunity to study labor history and film making as he worked toward his associates’ degree in Applied Technology at Ohio University-Zanesville. For Dave, history is of major importance. “Some people only want to look to the future. I can’t go forward without learning history. In order to learn, you have to know your mistakes. The link of history is what is missing in the workforce today.”
Dave lives in Toboso with his wife, Michelle. They have three children: David, the eldest, is currently serving in the US Marine Corps, Miramar Base, San Diego, California; daughter Morgan is studying at Kent State University; and the youngest son, Grant, is a student at Licking Valley High School.
Emily Nemeth joined the Board of The Freedom School in Licking County in the Fall of 2015. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Denison University. A native of nearby Alexandria, Ohio, Emily attended Denison as an undergraduate (B.A. Educational Studies and Spanish), but she never expected to become a professor. After graduation, she enlisted in the City Year, AmeriCorps, the national service program whose members provide intensive support to public school students who are struggling with their academic skills. This experience in Columbus led her to the fields of Education and Service Learning.
She earned advanced degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (M.Ed. in Higher Education and Service Learning), and The Ohio State University (Ph.D. in Adolescent, Post-Secondary and Community Literacies). She joined the Denison faculty in 2014.
As an outgrowth of her research into the literacy lives of adolescent youth in community contexts, Emily established and serves as an advisor for a Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools program in her hometown. The program provides summer reading enrichment for children who might not otherwise have access to books in partnership with local congregations, schools, colleges, and universities.
Nemeth is inspired by the work of educators Paulo Freire and bell hooks, and encourages her Denison students to become active learners of their own life experiences as an essential part of their academic work in her classes on literacy, community engagement, and equity pedagogies.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1970, Steven moved to Newark in 1977. He attended Central Elementary School and graduated from Newark High in 1988. His parents sold antique glass throughout Ohio on the weekends, and Steven discovered he had quite a knack for sales. As a young man, he sold cars, carpet, and in an unfortunate youthful venture, drugs to an undercover agent. He served 14 months in prison where he learned the importance of education and became a convert to Islam. Upon release, he found that his felony conviction adversely affected his future. He studied for a real estate license at Hondros College, but soon learned that convicted felons are not eligible for a real estate license.
For the next two decades, Steven struggled to find financial footing. He started several small business ventures which were unsuccessful, but he had a knack for cooking and community organizing. In 2010, Steven and two friends organized a huge Juneteenth Celebration in Newark on Father’s Day, to celebrate the anniversary of the end of slavery and to honor the bonds between fathers and children. More than 400 people attended the celebration and feasted on barbeque chicken. Steven began to dream of a restaurant that would help revitalize his old neighborhood and provide a living for his family. He saved money for the enterprise by working construction jobs and as a sales agent for I-Force, and in 2014 he opened Big Momma’s House of Chicken and Fish in Newark.
Steven began to study with the Freedom School in 2010, and became a board member in 2012. He has been active in housing issues and in 2015 helped organize the school’s first community conversations on race, which took place over a 6-month period. Ironically, he was falsely convicted of selling drugs early in 2016. He is currently on leave while his conviction is under appeal.
Nick Ross works for the City of Heath. He is President of AFSCME Local 3439 and serves on the Licking, Knox, Muskingum, Coshocton Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He joined the board of the Freedom School in 2017, bringing with him first-hand knowledge of the difficulty of finding steady work in the past few decades.
Nick was born in Newark in 1959 and was raised in Hanover, Ohio, where he graduated from Licking Valley High School in 1977. After high school, he married and got a job at Newark Processing, an aluminum smelting company located on Everett Avenue, and became a member of United Steel Workers of America. From 1977-1982, he advanced on the job, learning skills as a furnace operator, mill operator, and crane operator.
Then, in 1982, the plant closed. Nick went to work as a machine operator at Walker Manufacturing, a maker of exhaust systems, catalytic converters, and mufflers for automobiles. He later worked as an electronic pipe bender and welder, and was a member of UAW Local 1927.
He could see that local manufacturing jobs were moving overseas, and he tried to be prepared. By the time Walker Manufacturing closed its Newark facility and moved to Mexico in 1994, Nick was already working a second job. However, his extra job disqualified him from any retraining opportunities under the Trade Readjustment Act.
So while some of his co-workers went back to school, Nick went to work at BobCat in Columbus. His new job had no union and lots of travel. For nine years, he delivered heavy equipment across the state of Ohio. In 2003 he decided to look for work in Licking County. The search yielded temp jobs, first as a truck driver and later at Box USA (now International Paper) on Tamarack Drive in Newark.
Then in 2006, he was hired by the City of Heath to work at its wastewater treatment plant, where he is currently employed. He earned his Class 3 Operator’s certificate on the job and through classes taught by the EPA, attending school at night in Columbus for 15 weeks. During these years he once again became a union member. He was elected Vice President of AFSCME Local 3439 for three years before becoming president in 2014. During his years on the Licking, Knox, Muskingum Coshocton Labor Council, AFL-CIO, he began to attend Freedom School events.
He reflects on the value of education through the Freedom School by saying, “It is so difficult to live life when you battle the economy. Education lets people know they are not alone. Everyone faces the same battle, but until you are in a group setting, everyone doesn’t understand that.”
Nick lives in Heath with his wife, Jeri. He has four children (three are college graduates) and three grandchildren. He is a motor cycle enthusiast and loves deer hunting.
Lizz Stearns is an adventurous teacher and learner. After completing her doctorate in English Literature from Syracuse University, Lizz and her husband Jared met the challenge of unemployment by going abroad to work and learn. While traveling, she used her skills as a writer, teacher, cook, and gardener in ten countries.
In Costa Rica, she worked on a farm in the jungle. In Peru, she and Jared were on a crew helping to build a small hydroelectric power plant on a river. In rural Thailand, Lizz helped to build a mud house. She lived at a cultural center in Morocco and worked as a teacher in Japan, all the while honing her skills as a writer by blogging about their adventures.
After their return, Lizz and Jared traded their backpacks and hiking boots for a more sedentary work life. Jared took a job at OSU-Newark, and Lizz began working multiple jobs. She became an online instructor and rated SAT exams. Her work as a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader included both online and local clients.
Currently, Lizz is a Lecturer at The Ohio State University at Newark, where she teaches in the English Department. She is also Associate Editor of Between Coasts, an online magazine dedicated to long-form journalism that was launched in 2016 by Denison University professor Jack Shuler. Lizz joined the Board of the Freedom School in Licking County in 2017, and serves as Recording Secretary.
Nancy is a veteran of the United States Air Force. She has lived in Newton Township in Licking County for 20 years. Nancy is an Academic Administrative Assistant in the anthropology and sociology department at Denison University.
Born into a military family at Shaw Air Force Base, Sumter, South Carolina, Nancy started school in Puerto Rico and graduated from Mason County Central High School in Scottville, Michigan. She joined the U.S. Air Force at age 17 when she was still in high school and was trained as an Electronic Warfare Systems Specialist and earned the rank of E-5, Staff Sergeant before leaving the military. Following her 8 ½ years of service, she became an Air Force wife and continued her education through work and study in many locations while working at a variety of jobs. In Florida, she worked for MekTek Incorporated, a precision machine shop that manufactured parts for the Space Shuttle and studied at Brevard College. In Denver, Colorado, she worked during the week as a janitor in a Coca-Cola Factory and on weekends as an Evaluator of Credit Applications. At Edwards Air Force Base in California she worked at the Base Exchange as a Sales Associate in the Electronics Department. She earned additional college credits at the University of Maryland, Texas College, and Denison University.
After her children were born, the family lived in Guam where Nancy became involved in volunteer work. She helped to organize the Enlisted Spouses’ Club and a Parent Teacher Association at the local school, and ran a non-profit thrift store for the Spouses’ Club.
Nancy moved to Licking County when her husband Ross was transferred to the area in 1996. She served as an officer in the Newton Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization (President, Vice-President, Treasurer) and as a member of the Finance Committee of the North Fork School Board (2007-2013). She is currently Chair of the Zoning Appeals Board of Newton Township (2007-present).
In Newark, Nancy volunteered at the St. Vincent Haven Shelter for Men for 6 ½ years andshe served as a member of the Ad Hoc Citizen’s Community on Rental Registration appointed by the Newark City Council.
Lyn Robertson, now an emrita board member, has been a member of the Freedom School Board since its beginning. She also volunteers in the GED program at C-TEC and facilitates REAL: The Women’s Book Group of Licking County that involves women of diverse backgrounds and experiences for the purposes of expanding knowledge and friendship across social boundaries and increasing literacy.
Robertson is an emerita professor of the Department of Education at Denison University where she taught from 1979-2013. She began her teaching career in the Newark City Schools as an English teacher at Lincoln Junior High School and Newark High School. Upon discovering students struggling with reading and writing, she turned her attention to the study of literacy, with particular focus on linguistic, cognitive, social, and political frameworks and has taught reading and about reading to people from preschool to adulthood.
Her interest in how people shape language and languages shape people led her to investigate how people use metaphors to bridge from old to new knowledge. She used principles developed by Paulo Freire and by feminists in her writing about the preparation of K-12 teachers.
Robertson became interested in the dilemma of low literacy levels in individuals with hearing loss when her daughter was diagnosed with a severe-to-profound hearing loss, and she began to research the effects of the listening and spoken language approach for young children with hearing loss. She has written Literacy Learning for Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (Alexander Graham Bell, 2000), and Literacy and Deafness (Plural, 2009; 2013, 2nd edition), as well as articles about listening and reading.
In retirement, she continues her teaching in distance learning through graduate and professional programs for listening and spoken language specialists. She is a past president of the Alexander Graham Bell Association Academy for Listening and Spoken Language and was honored recently by Sound Intuition, a Canadian organization of professionals who work with children with hearing loss, with the Sound Practice in Education award.
In her career at Denison, Robertson served as chair of her department and taught courses about literacy, critical pedagogy, educational psychology, the senior seminar, and special topics courses, and she supervised student teachers. During her last three years at Denison, she served as director of the Alford Center for Service Learning. She holds a B.A. in English from Denison University, an M.A. in Reading and Language from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. in Reading from The Ohio State University.
In another life tangent, Robertson served for two terms on the Granville Village Council, with four of those years as mayor. She is deeply interested in creating community and in bringing communities together.