May 2016
Welcome to our e-newsletter
Minds in Motion   
Free Minds celebrated ten years this month, and our birthday wish is that you'll take a moment to catch up on all the latest news, including a big fat anniversary bash, a proud group of new grads, and a call to help us recruit our next class. And in the Final Word, 2016 grad Shirley Treviño tells how a desire to talk about more than tacos led to something much greater.   
Free Minds Celebrates 10th Anniversary and 2016 Graduates

Those in attendance heard the story in several ways on Tuesday evening, May 24. Free Minds began with a cold call from a prospective graduate student to a UT professor. Or it began years before when Free Minds founding director Sylvia Gale and current director Vivé Griffith simultaneously encountered a Harper's article by Earl Shorris describing his new Clemente Course in the Humanities. Clemente invited students who faced barriers to education to engage with literature, philosophy, and art history and offered a model for what Free Minds would become.

Whatever its origins, when Free Minds alumni, partners, 2016 graduates, and faculty gathered at ACC's Eastview Campus, the room was packed, rowdy, and jubilant. Designated speaker for the Class of 2016, Shirley Treviño opened saying, "Right now, at this very moment, I am exactly where I want to be." (You can read an excerpt from Shirley's speech the Final Word below.) Representatives from all previous classes invited faculty and fellow alumni to stand, and each of the 143 Free Minds graduates was recognized in the program.

Among ceremony speakers were ACC President Dr. Richard Rhodes, Foundation Communities Executive Director Walter Moreau, and Dr. Sylvia Gale, who now directs the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond. Sylvia remarked on what has changed since her founding year, saying Free Minds has exchanged takeout dinners for healthy catered meals and haphazard babysitting for Creative Action classes for students' kids. "What hasn't changed," she said, "is what the program stands for...Practicing the humanities matters because discovering ourselves and our own capacities is a human right--the right to become a fully expressed human being, the right to understand ourselves, each other, and our world."

Want to see more from our Free Minds 10 celebration? Click here for full speeches, reflections, and graduates' bios.

Dr. Sylvia Gale addresses the crowd at Free Minds 10.
Apply NOW for Free Minds 

We are accepting applications for the Free Minds Class of 2016-17. Perhaps you or someone you know has been looking for a way back into the classroom but lacked the resources to make it happen. Please consider applying for the class of 2016-17 or share this opportunity with a friend.

Visit our website for eligibility guidelines or to apply online.

The application deadline is July 1, 2016. 

Our Free Minds reunion picnic has become an annual tradition, a time for program alumni and their families to connect over grilled meats (and veggie burgers too!) We'll bring the hotdogs, hamburgers, and drinks. You bring yourself, and a side dish or dessert to share if you like. Also, bring a book (or two or three) for our book exchange table. There's a splash pad to keep the young ones cool.

Can't wait to see you there!
Issue 61        
In This Issue
Free Minds Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Apply Now!
Join us at the Picnic
The Final Word: Shirley Treviño

Special Thanks

 It took a tremendous team effort to get Free Minds 10 off the ground. We are indebted to all of those who contributed to its success. We appreciate you!

Julia Aguilar
Freddy Carnes
Dreux Carpenter
Dr. Evan Carton
Dr. Matthew Daude Laurents
Jennifer Furl
Dr. Sylvia Gale
Alyssa Haney
Dr. Susan Heinzelman
Jennifer Herber
Alyah Khan
Polly Monear
Gwen Moore
Walter Moreau
Peachy Myers
Jessica Navarro 
Dr. Domino Perez 
Dr. Richard Rhodes
Drew Thomas
Sarah Sygal 
Anne Wharton 
Donna Williams
Cacki Young

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

A student shares his belief in waving hello. 

January 2016
Read one alum's journey through cancer to graduation. 
November 2015
KLRU features Free Minds, and one student is having an epic year.

Looking for earlier newsletters?
Visit our complete 
The Final Word
FinalWordShirley Treviño, a graduate of the Free Minds Class of 2016, was selected by her peers to speak on their behalf at graduation. As a single mother, Shirley worked at the Tamale House for 30 years, supporting her family on her earnings. When the doors of the Tamale House closed in 2014, Shirley resolved to re-open them by creating the first worker-owned Tex-Mex cooperative in Austin. To make her vision a reality, she has taken computer and business classes in addition to completing Free Minds. In the following excerpt from her speech, Shirley describes the crucial community bond between members of the Class of 2016.

Shirley (right) with taco house co-op partner  
Raquel Banda (left).
We all came to the class with different backgrounds and different goals, but we shared the goal of wanting to motivate and challenge ourselves to expand our minds. The students became a unique circle together. Hopeful future writers were there. There was a boxer, mothers of children, someone who works in the neonatal ICU. There were AISD bus drivers, an unfortunate ex-Uber driver and one special strong woman warrior named Tinisha who delivered her baby on the last day of class. Fortunately we came to know about each other's lives. We not only ate together--we fed each other sweets, treats, and advice, scheduled study time together, formed a Facebook group, and walked each other to our cars in the dark. I know everyone in the class feels the same way I do: we couldn't have done it by ourselves. We needed each other. We all worked hard--that's for dang sure--and we knew completing the program was going to be an accomplishment. It took courage. We did it. We are awesome.

I'm in my fifties, and it's the first time I've ever gone to college, and that's big to me. I have earned my start up of six itty-bitty college credits from Free Minds. I took the class because I wanted to be able to talk about something other than tacos. Now I corner anyone who will listen about Sandra Cisneros, Virginia Woolf, Mary Rowlandson, and can you believe it, Plato's Republic? But I also gained other things. I have lasting new friends, a nice book collection, and newfound inspiration.

I appreciate the opportunity to be part of Free Minds commencement and to represent my fellow classmates. I firmly believe education trains the brain. Attending friends and amigos, it's celebration time for the 2016 Free Minds graduating class. I look forward to serving you soon at our taco house co-op.

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
3036 South 1st Street
Austin TX, 78704

Project Director: Vivé Griffith

Program Coordinator: Amelia Pace-Borah

Classroom Assistant: Irene Salas


Ph: 512-610-7961   F: 512-447-0288