July 2018
Welcome to our e-newsletter
Minds in Motion   
This July, we look back on a whirlwind of recruiting and look forward to the Free Minds family growing a little bigger. Read on for more about this year's group of applicants and to celebrate alum Jill Davis as she graduates from ACC. Plus, Arlene Lozano, '15, takes it away in the Final Word. Come on in!

For Alumna Jill Davis, Communication is Key 
Jill Davis (left) and Irene Salas at their ACC graduation.
Since earning her associate's from ACC earlier this summer, Jill Davis, Class of 2016, has found herself at a crossroads. "[ACC] seems so invested in the success of their students, it's hard to leave such a good experience behind," she said. She's applying to Texas State, where she would work toward a bachelor's degree in creative writing, as well as considering other options, including continuing to take class at ACC.
She knows no matter where she goes next, her success will depend on a balance between self-assurance and external support. Throughout her time in school, Jill struggled with self-doubt again and again. Free Minds helped her conquer her initial uncertainty, but she knew she needed to look outward while at ACC.
"Once I was a full-time student, I met with an advisor every semester. It was a blessing to have someone guide me through the process," she said. "Part of what hindered my education before was that I suffered on my own. I didn't reach out to anyone." 
Jill struggles with schizophrenia, and faced relapses each semester. In order to keep going, she had to work hard not to isolate herself and told her teachers each time she experienced symptoms. To those continuing their education, she advises: "Don't suffer in silence. If you're struggling, be willing to go somewhere and ask for help."
One of Jill's highlights during her time at ACC was her work with the school's literary magazine, the Rio Review. In addition to helping produce the magazine, her writing was published in the review several times. You can read one of those pieces here. Congratulations on all of your hard work, Jill!

Free Minds Staff Explores Restorative Justice 
This June, Free Minds staff members Zoë Fay-Stindt and Amelia Pace-Borah crossed town for an immersion in Restorative Justice (RJ). The two day training, hosted by UT's Institute for Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialogue, brought people together from a variety of arenas--education, criminal justice, social work, and beyond.
While RJ is known as an alternative to traditional discipline in K-12 classrooms, it is, at heart, about creating safe space for respectful dialogue.
Free Minds staff showed up asking what guided circles would look like in Free Minds. After two intensive days with local RJ leaders, Amelia and Zoë emerged with a new toolkit to address conflict and build community. Along the way, guides from the Institute asked us to learn by participating in and designing circles of our own. Trainees shared about our favorite songs, our role models, and the places that make us feel safe. In our last hours together, participants weaved a literal web of celebration, tossing a ball of yarn across the circle as we honored each person.
"Having meaningful conversations is key to Free Minds," said Free Minds Director Amelia Pace-Borah. "It's important for Free Minds students, faculty, and staff to build personal connections first so that we can dive into our academic work ready to take risks and be authentic." And she added, "I'm excited to see how this can enrich the Free Minds experience for our incoming students." 
Recruitment Roundup

Each year, we spend June flyering the Austin community, meeting folks at local events, and generally spreading the word far and wide to find Free Minds applicants and build our new cohort.

Our recruitment season yielded 69 applications for our Class of 2018-19. Times like these remind us how lucky we are to have support from our community partners--we couldn't fill our classroom each year without them.

Since the July 6 application deadline, we've interviewed 40 people, and acceptance decisions will be finalized in early August. We're very excited to select the Class of 2019--stay tuned!

Issue 72      
In This Issue
For Jill Davis, Communication Is Key
FM Staff Explores Restorative Justice
Recruitment Roundup
The Final Word

Special Thanks

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

AISD, American Widow Project, Any Baby Can, Austin Area Urban League, Austin Goodwill, Austin Parks and Recreation, Austin Public Library, Austin Young Chamber, Boys and Girls Club, Caritas, CapMetro, Clarksville Community Development Corporation, Creative Action, College Forward, Communities in Schools, Dress for Success, El Buen Samaritano, Goodwill Excel Center, Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy, Housing Authority of the City of Austin, Housing Authority of Travis County, iDads, Interfaith Texas, Jeremiah Program, KAZI, Las Comadres, Lifeworks, Literacy Coalition, Literacy First, El Mundo, Refugee Services of Texas, SAFE, Samaritan Center, Todos Juntos, Travis County, Truth Be Told, United Way Capital Area, The Villager, WIC, 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
We cheer on our 2018 grads as they cross the stage.

Take a peek inside the spring writing workshop and our Creative Action classroom.

Looking for earlier newsletters?

Visit our 

The Final Word 
Arlene Lozano, Class of 2015: " Graduating Free Minds was only the beginning."
Four years after graduating from Free Minds, I still remember reading the brochure for the first time. It listed everything I needed to bridge the gap to my education, and the fact that it was free just blew my mind. When I applied for the program, I had been hoping to go back to school because I knew it would help me advance professionally. I didn't realize it would give me the keys to so many doors. 
Before Free Minds, I had imposter syndrome like the prisoners in Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." I worked two jobs and my goals didn't seem attainable, because I didn't know how to balance my work, family, and school life. The classroom environment motivated me to use my time wisely and set priorities, helping me to ignite my inner self to continue my educational journey. Now I share this experience with my sons; my oldest is in his third year at Texas Tech University and my youngest is beginning his freshman year at University of Texas at Dallas.   
Graduating Free Minds was only the beginning. I applied my new writing skills at work and was promoted as a liaison between the City of Austin and other agencies. In my new position, I use my communication skills to write emails and memos; my promotion allowed me to quit my second job, giving me more time to enjoy family events, social gatherings, church functions, and exercise.
I have also set some realistic goals: obtain a bachelor's degree in Criminology within six years, retire, begin a second career, and support my sons as they obtain their degrees. My goal-oriented self exists because Free Minds believed in my ability to transform my life and be a better mom, sister, daughter, and friend.
Free Minds is still a part of my life and they continue to reach out and share resources for my success. I will forever be indebted to Amelia for accepting me and to the entire program for their contributions. Good luck to past, present, and future Free Minds participants!

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
Classroom Assistant: Irene Salas

Ph: 512-610-7961   F: 512-447-0288