Welcome to our e-newsletter
 Minds in Motion
Welcome back, readers! During this time of social distancing, staying connected is more important than ever, so we want to keep you in tune with our spring 2020 season. In this issue we welcome our new community liaison, share upcoming events, and feature 2008 graduate Larry Thomas. Also, current student Alaa Abdulsamad shares a poem about her hometown in the Final Word. Enjoy!
Welcome, Dallas Klein
Last month, Foundation Communities welcomed the newest member of Team Free Minds, Dallas Klein, who will serve as our Community Liaison. Dallas is a poet—she’ll graduate with her MFA from Texas State University’s Creative Writing Program this May, and she has worked for the past three years in Texas State’s Academic Coaching department. There she helped students make the transition from high school to college, walking them through difficult life circumstances along the way.
Despite her love for the classroom, school hasn’t always felt easy for Dallas. Growing up in a bi-ethnic household in the Houston suburb of Cypress, Dallas didn’t often see families that looked like hers. “I wrote all the time as a kid and teenager as a way to navigate feeling different,” she said. Dallas credits her parents, neither of whom had college degrees, for pushing her and her brother to work hard at school, even assigning them homework over the summer. Though it irritated her then, her parents’ influence led Dallas to her own philosophies about education--that learning should involve passion, laughter, and imperfection. “People get scared away from school because there is such a push to be perfect,” Dallas reflected. “Learning doesn’t happen when you are perfect, though. It happens when you get messy and go for something you have never tried before.”
Dallas first learned about Free Minds through an email sent to her graduate listserv seeking facilitators for community writing workshops. She wrote immediately to express her interest, and although scheduling did not align then, Dallas kept Free Minds at the back of her mind. “I basically stalked the website regularly to see if positions were open,” she recalled. “I think I knew I was meant to be here.”
Dallas has hit the ground running, taking a crash course in all things College Hub and attending a Shakespeare performance with students and graduates on the UT campus. Reflecting on her first few weeks, Dallas says she won’t soon forget the excitement of seeing the classroom in action for the first time. As she put it, “It is a space that overflows with kindness.”
Planning for the Upcoming Semester?
Make a Virtual Appointment with College Hub
In response to COVID-19, the College Hub is adjusting our service delivery. While Prosper Centers North and South are both physically closed until further notice, College Hub staff remain available to students and community members virtually.

To schedule an appointment to work with a coach by phone or video conference,  click here , email   collegehub@foundcom.org or call 512-610-4012 .
2nd Saturday Updates
Unfortunately, we are not holding any in-person 2nd Saturday events for the remainder of the semester. We are working to move 2nd Saturdays online in the coming weeks; stay tuned to the events page of our website for upcoming opportunities.
Larry Thomas, '08, Shares Passion for History
In 1998, long before Larry Thomas joined Free Minds, he came across a book describing Nathan H. Haller, one of the first black legislators to serve in the Texas House of Representatives. Thomas had never heard of him before and wondered why. He took the rest of the afternoon off to keep reading, and he hasn’t stopped.
Over the course of the next 12 years, Thomas studied the contributions of 52 black state legislators and Constitutional Convention Delegates who served Texas in the 19 th century. A crowning achievement came when Thomas created a monument housed at the Texas State Cemetery to honor this remarkable group of public servants. Unveiled in March 2010, the monument celebrates these once unsung heroes, reminding us that every story matters to our shared history.
Thomas believes historians ought to “make sure that those who rarely get heard are brought to the forefront,” and he wants to help more Texans see the history he has uncovered. With this in mind and with materials from a local craft store, Thomas designed an exhibit that he called They Took an Oath. The exhibit highlights the legislation that this group of black legislators put forward while in office. It has toured Austin’s public libraries and is currently located at the Texas State Cemetery. Fortunately for us, it made a stop at Free Minds along the way.
On February 8, Free Minds students, alumni, and faculty gathered to see Thomas’s exhibit and hear from one of their own. Thomas saw the experience as a chance to give back to a family that has given him “such a strong foundation for [his] work.” Thomas credits his professors and classmates for teaching him passion, patience, and creativity.
Larry Thomas’s fire is still burning bright. He has begun working to memorialize a school in Brady, Texas built for students of color. And he is spreading the word about Charlie Brown, the millionaire ex-slave who donated land to build black schools in and around Brazoria County. His advice to those who want to accomplish something big? “Don’t stop when someone else says no. Keep writing, keep striving, and be creative.”

To learn more about Larry Thomas's research visit the Forever Free website here .
Applications Open for Upcoming Free Minds Class
Are you picturing yourself walking across that graduation stage next year? Or do you have someone in mind who might fit the bill? Free Minds offers a supportive year-long college course in humanities for adults with tuition, books, and child care covered at no cost to students. In these uncertain times, it's more important than ever to plan for the future. We'd love for you to apply for the Free Minds Class of 2021!

Visit our website  to apply or find out about eligibility guidelines
Call 512-610-7961 or email freeminds@foundcom.org with any questions.

The application deadline is July 6, 2020.
The Final Word
Current Free Minds student Alaa Abdulsamad reflects on her hometown in Syria.
Emesa (Homs)

I was born in this tiny Paradise--
its narrow streets but wide blue sky,
its big buildings but cozy homes.
This neighborhood says a thousand words.

The cars are parked inches away from each other,
showing how their owners used to love one another.
The buildings are bundled side to side, so close.
You feel it’s merely one building uniting
its inseparable neighbors.

I still hear the laughter of the folks in this building.
I still smell the Atayef prepared in that courtyard.
I still remember the women chatting in the opposite front yard,
under the clear sky, in the chilly night,
interrupted by the prayer call from the holy mosque
at the very end of the street.

Each balcony is a box of memory;
You look at them, you remember
the smell of coffee drank there,
the nights spent counting the stars
meditating the beauty of this city.
Oh Emesa how gorgeous you are!

This giant tree on the right corner, covering my building
til war ends and I go back,
is still holding jasmine
for generation after generation,
spreading its fragrance.

On this street,
I was raised to learn, love and greet.
From South to North, Emesa
my Paradise on Earth.
Your love is engraved in my heart,
to death and after rebirth. 

Raised in Syria, Alaa has lived in Austin for the past four years. Once a toddler teacher, Alaa now has a full time job raising her three year old, Mira. In her free time, she likes to draw and is an admitted shopaholic. She feels blessed to be part of the Free Minds family and hopes one day to go back to Syria to pave the way for others to continue their education just like her Free Minds family does.

Click here to see Alaa's hand drawn map of Emesa.
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
Community Liaison: D allas Klein
Classroom Assistant: Irene Salas

Ph: 512-610-7961  F: 512-447-0288