July 2017
Welcome to our e-newsletter
Minds in Motion   


With July behind us, we are busy piecing together the Class of 2017. In the midst of the selection process, we rejoice in the accomplishments of an alum, appreciate a dear friend, and hear from class assistant Irene Salas in the Final Word. Plus, we've got details on College Hub's new workshop series. Dive in!

Free Minds Grad Tasha McMillion Earns Bachelor's Degree

Last May, Tasha McMillion walked the stage at Huston-Tillotson University, earning her BA in psychology and basking in the joy of an accomplishment many years in the making. As sole caregiver to her son, Miles, and a full-time City employee, Tasha was as surprised as anyone by her journey from Free Minds to a four-year degree.

After completing Free Minds in 2013, Tasha's spark to learn was re-lit, and she continued taking classes at ACC toward a degree in creative writing.

Prior to completing her associate's in 2015, Tasha saw a flyer on campus touting the chance to transfer to Huston-Tillotson University. Although she felt "ready to sit down" by that point, she called the number on the flyer. Tasha was amazed to find that all of her credits would transfer.

Once enrolled at HT, Tasha joined a cohort of other adult students taking a new core psychology class each five weeks. The fast-paced nature of the program felt overwhelming at times. "I was so nervous about starting a bachelor's program, because I was standing somewhere I hadn't stood before," Tasha remembered.

For Tasha's day-to-day life, earning a degree has meant a promotion and pay increase at her job. It has had less tangible results too--the assurance that she can rise to meet great challenges. 

Asked about her advice for other adult students, Tasha reflected, "Not everybody will be supportive. Some will say, your life is not about you, it's about your child. You have to block out people telling you you can't do it." She added, "My college experience affected Miles's life dramatically. Now it makes him want to get his education as well."
Free Minds Appreciates the Wonderful Jen Furl 

Jen Furl, a devoted Free Minds champion and advisory committee member, recently attended her last meeting with us.

Since getting involved in 2011, Jen has made many contributions to our program. Inspired by her experience with Write Around Portland, Jen introduced the concept of  community writing workshops to Free Minds, facilitating the inaugural workshop and in doing so, started a small but mighty revolution. 

"I think the value of writing in community is the same thing that happens in a Free Minds classroom. You start seeing other worlds besides your own. It impacts how we live and how we connect with others," says Jen.

As we write this, the Furl family is journeying through the country on a mega trip. They've hiked through several national parks and are now exploring the Pacific Northwest. Jen has recently made some lifestyle changes so that she can return to a less chaotic schedule.

"I am a freelance writer and proofreader, and with my kids going into kindergarten, I'm looking forward to working during the day again, and not at 4 am or 10 at night," says Jen. "While I'm stepping down from the advisory committee, I still hope to volunteer with Free Minds and get to see former students at events."

Thank you, Jen, for all you've helped Free Minds become. We know you won't be far out of sight, but we miss you already.
Head over to the Cash for College Facebook to RSVP.

Recruitment Roundup

For Free Minds, summer is filled with outreach. From flyering doors to attending community health fairs, we spend May and June spreading the word about Free Minds.
By mid-July 69 people had applied for next year's class. Applicants heard about Free Minds from their supervisors, case managers, program graduates, and advertisements.
The interview and selection process is well underway, and we are selecting our Class of 2017 with much anticipation.
Issue 66      
In This Issue
Tasha McMillion Earns BA
Free Minds Appreciates Jen Furl
Recruitment Roundup
The Final Word

Special Thanks

We would be lost without the organizations and individuals that share information about Free Minds with their circles. We're sending big appreciation to:

Ann Richards School, AISD, Any Baby Can, Ascend Center for Learning, Austin Public Library, #bossbabesatx, Boys and Girls Club of Austin, Caritas of Austin, Conspire Theater, Dress for Success, El Buen Samaritano, Greensheet, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber, Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy, Housing Authority of the City of Austin, Jeremiah Program, KAZI, Lifeworks, Literacy First, Mainspring Schools, El Mundo, Samaritan Center, Skillpoint Alliance, Soulciti, St. Louise House, Todos Juntos, Travis County, Housing Authority of Travis County, Treasure City Thrift, Truth Be Told, United Way Capital Area, UT Elementary School, The Villager, Workforce Solutions, & YWCA

If you are interested in volunteering with or supporting Free Minds, you can find more information on our website.

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Minds in Motion
The Class of 2017 shines at graduation.

College Hub brings Free Minds students and staff a new kind of support.  
Free Minds beloved director, Vivé, passes the torch. 

Looking for earlier newsletters?
Visit our 

The Final Word 
Classroom Assistant Irene Salas Shares Advice on the Power Inside 
Irene Salas (left) with history professor Dr. Polly Strong.
During my second semester of Free Minds, I remember saying how wonderful it would be if they offered a second year of classes. I would have gladly stayed for another year, but unfortunately the program does not have a two-year option. My dream still came true, though... sort of. In the fall after my graduation, I was chosen to work as a program assistant! I would get to sit in on every Monday and Thursday night's class for the next semester with a brand new group of students. It was exactly what I wanted. I thought only movie stars had good luck.
In my life experience so far, no other place has been as eye-opening and magical as the space above the M Station leasing office. Each year, this classroom is witness to a new transformation for each student. It witnessed my own transformation, and continues to do so for each class I've been movie star lucky enough to work with these last three years.
I came to the Free Minds program after leaving a beloved position at Travis County in the Health and Human Services Family Support Division. I worked with the community daily and knew that to obtain the position I wanted, higher education had to be part of the plan. I entered Free Minds and left as a much braver, happier life warrior. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Since being in the classroom as an assistant, I've gotten to know and talk with every student, each more positive about the future.
At this moment, I am two semesters away from obtaining my first degree. I have been recognized for my academic achievements as a member of the national honor society, and have no doubt that whatever I put my time and effort towards, I can accomplish. While praise is often given to faculty, fellow classmates, and the program, the secret ingredient to this magic potion has been inside us all along. 

A program of Foundation Communities, in partnership with The University of Texas at Austin and Austin Community College, Free Minds offers a two-semester college course in the humanities for Central Texas adults who want to fulfill their intellectual potential and begin a new chapter in their lives.

Free Minds Project
Foundation Communities
5900 Airport Blvd.
Austin TX, 78752

Academic Director: Amelia Pace-Borah
Program Specialist: Zoë Fay-Stindt

Ph: 512-610-7961   F: 512-447-0288