May 2017
Welcome to our e-newsletter
Minds in Motion   
Last week, Free Minds cheered our Class of 2017 across the graduation stage. Today we give tribute to them, hear from our class speaker, welcome a new Free Minds staff member, and announce our upcoming ice cream social reunion. Join us in celebrating all things sweet. 
Class of 2017 Shines at Graduation
Last Monday, May 22, Domino Perez read Maya Angelou's poem, "Still I Rise" to attendees of the Free Minds Class of 2017 graduation. The poem opens: "You may write me down in history / with your bitter, twisted lies, / you may trod me in the very dirt / but still, like dust, I'll rise." The ceremony marked Free Minds' tenth graduating class, and celebrated each graduate's remarkable accomplishments.

Perez, a professor of English at UT Austin, was one of several graduation speakers, among Foundation Communities' own Julian Huerta, who opened the ceremony. Other speakers included poet Dr. drea brown, ACC's Dr. Virginia Fraire, Creative Action's Freddy Carnes and College Hub Manager Natasha Brockington. The ceremony was a mixing pot of poetry, anecdote, celebration and gratitude, and was crowned by the words of a few graduates, including Anthony Julian, who shared an original poem. Addressing his classmates, he said, "We are all vibrant seekers for our lost bridges to success." The audience also heard from class speaker Brenda Reyna, whose speech you can read from in The Final Word.
That night, graduates followed in Angelou's victorious words, rising to receive their medals as they had risen to each challenge they encountered over their nine months in the program. In doing so, they stepped into a new sense of who they could be: academics, advocates, leaders, and movers and shakers of our society. They did so with an auditorium filled to the gills with folks hollering, clapping, laughing and wiping tears, everyone vibrating with anticipation of our graduates' next steps.

Though the year just ended, alumni won't have to wait long to see their classmates again. Gather around the ice cream bar and reunite with fellow alum and families. We'll bring the sweets, but feel free to bring snacks to share and a book (or stack) to add to the book exchange. There is a playground across the street for the youngins, so bring your crew.  
Apply NOW for Free Minds 

Applications for the Free Minds Class of 2017-18 are open! If you or someone you know has been looking for a way back into the classroom, please consider applying for the class of 2017-18 or share this opportunity with a friend.

Visit our website for eligibility guidelines or to apply online.  

The application deadline is July 7, 2017. 

To learn more, meet a graduate, and see the classroom where the magic happens, join us at our upcoming Free Minds Info Breakfast on June 3 at 10 am. RSVP and read more here .
Issue 65        
In This Issue
Class of 2017 Graduates
Join us at the Social
Apply Now!
Welcome New Program Specialist
The Final Word: Brenda Reyna

Special Thanks

 As another year of academic excellence comes to a close, we're grateful for the faculty who make it all possible. To all who brought our classroom alive this year, we thank you:

Sam Anderson-Ramos
St. Edwards University

Janis Bergman-Carton
Art History, 
Southern Methodist University

Dr. Matthew Daude Laurents
Austin Community College

Dr. Patricia García
UT Austin

Vivé Griffith
Faculty Lead, Creative Writing, 
Austin Community College

Dr. Pauline Strong
UT Austin

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

College Hub brings Free Minds students and staff a new kind of support.

November 2016
Free Minds' beloved director, Vivé, passes the torch.

The Class of 2017 embarks on a year of study and community.

Looking for earlier newsletters?

Visit our  
Free Minds Welcomes New Program Specialist
Zoë & '17 graduate Amy.

Last month, Free Minds staff welcomed our newest member, Zo ë Fay-Stindt. Brought up splitting her time between Southern France and Blounts Creek, North Carolina, Zo ë moved to Austin last year out of a desire to experience an entirely new place. "All of my friends were moving to New York or L.A. I came to Austin thinking I would stay just a year," Zo ë said, "And then I fell in love with Texas."

Growing up with a poet mother and photographer father, the arts and humanities have been a focus of Zo ë's life from the beginning. She learned about Free Minds through a group of civically engaged women writers and jumped at the chance to be part of the team. "I knew I was joining something incredible, but I didn't quite realize the extent of it until my first Free Minds class," Zo ë said. "We talked about capital 't' Truth, read and discussed Stein, Hurston, Fitzgerald, and bonded over love for the S Town podcast. The students dazzled me, and I was hooked."

In addition to her background in writing, editing, and design, Zo ë brings her recent experience at the Austin Boys and Girls Club where she led groups of young people, and worked on community outreach and organizing. In her role at Free Minds, she will head our recruitment efforts, communications, and community writing workshops.

We're thrilled to have Zo ë on board and look forward to her many contributions to our community. "After just six weeks and still reeling from the magic of graduation, I've already met so many incredible folks," she said. "I'm eager to meet the next cohort of students, whoever they may be."
The Final Word
BrendaBrenda Reyna, a graduate of the Class of '17, was selected by her peers to speak at graduation. Born and raised in McAllen, TX, Brenda put her education on the back burner after her mother passed away, thinking it unnecessary and purely for societal status. But after her daughter told her she didn't want to go to college, Brenda knew it was time for a change. Since, Free Minds has ignited Brenda's fire. In the following excerpt from her graduation speech, Brenda explains her shift in perspective.

Brenda Reyna, class speaker   
I no longer see education as society's reason for climbing those ladders of wealth, power, and greed. Free Minds has taught me that it is knowledge I have been depriving myself of and made me hungry for it again. Now I want to continue my education, to not ever let myself be my own setback. I am opening doors to my future, to my daughter's future. I am feeding her the power to dream, to believe, to speak and be heard. We belong here, Free Minds classmates. Don't doubt that for a minute! Every one of us is influencing a loved one's life this very moment. Every one of us is letting someone know that education is important not because it gives you a place in society or wealth but because it is knowledge -- it is the power to communicate, to understand, to listen. Knowledge provides the wisdom to analyze a situation, think of the outcomes, and to weigh our sacrifices and struggles.

You know what I compared us to the other day? The Republic, and the Allegory of the Cave. The allegory goes like this: there are prisoners born in a cave, kept there, chained and unable to turn their necks, and they face a wall. A fire behind them casts shadows on the wall which the prisoners see as real things to be afraid of. If these prisoners walked out of the cave and into the light, they'd realize and learn that they were seeing shadows. When people are deprived of education, they're like these prisoners in the cave, unable to glimpse the light that illuminates reality. We have let go of shadows on the wall, our fears, excuses, life's surprise emergencies. We have come out of our cave and stepped into a whole world of freedom, knowledge, and truth. 

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 Boulevard
Austin, TX 78752

Academic Director: Amelia Pace-Borah
Program Coordinator: 
Zoё Fay-Stindt
Classroom Assistant: Irene Salas

Ph: 512-610-7961   F: 512-447-0288