March 2021 | Issue 84
Like spring, this issue is blossoming with resilience and creativity. Read on to meet the newest member of Team Free Minds and to learn about Shakespeare's profound relevance in 2021. You'll also find current student Robert Hoffman's take on getting back into the classroom after overcoming a host of hurdles. Enjoy!
Natalie Ross ’15, Cheers on the Class of 2021
New Free Minds Classroom assistant Natalie Ross has a message for our current students: “I’ve been in your shoes, and I’m here for you 100%.” A 2015 Free Minds graduate and current ACC student, Natalie comes to this new role through ACC’s work study program.

Natalie is quickly approaching the finish line at ACC. She will graduate this semester with an associate degree in English, and she plans to pursue her BA post graduation. Natalie has achieved many college successes over the years, including membership in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society and having her poem “for my sister” published in LA-based zine Mujeres de Maíz Flor y Canto. Nevertheless, Natalie’s path back to school after Free Minds was a rocky one.

She spent three years paying down a 17 year old debt of $4,000 to a previous college to obtain her academic records. Using tax refunds to chip away at the debt, Natalie began to take classes two at a time, balancing student life alongside motherhood. Natalie also serves as caretaker for her “spit-fire” mother, and for the past ten years, she has worked at Vela Families, a nonprofit dedicated to creating community for families of kids with special needs.

This long path has required a tenacity and intentionality that Natalie exudes in conversation. Her desire to be a life-long learner and an example for her tween, Kit, motivate her to stride forward when things are hard. When she’s not making it all happen, she’s gardening, writing, and practicing radical self-care. She lives by the motto rest, nap, and do artthese are the wildest fantasies our ancestors had for us. And, she adds, “Doing what brings me joy is the most rebellious act I can think of as a woman of color.”

Her final word of advice to busy Free Minds students? On those truly non-stop days, “Chocolate and coffee are great!” We couldn’t agree more! Thanks for being part of our team, Natalie!
Upcoming Events
April 2nd Saturday

Join us for our upcoming 2nd Saturday! To celebrate National Poetry Month, local poet Maryan Nagy Captan will lead us through a discussion on the importance of an often overlooked part of the writing process--titles! The discussion will be held over Zoom on April 10th from 10:30 am - 12:00 pm.
Write Together Saturday

Looking for a chance to reinvigorate your writing life in a supportive space? On Saturday, April 24, Free Minds Creative Writing Instructor Vivé Griffith will lead a remote gathering for students and alumni to write in community. The event will be on Zoom from 10:30 am - 12:00 pm.
We hope to see you at our upcoming events! Visit our website for Zoom links and additional information.
For Alums, Shakespeare's Work is of the Moment
This spring Free Minds is proud to host a virtual Shakespeare workshop led by Clayton Stromberger, Outreach Coordinator for UT Austin’s Shakespeare at Winedale Program and Free Minds’ go-to Shakespeare expert.

Shakespeare at Winedale began in the 1970’s as an intensive Shakespeare performance course in UT’s English Department. It has since grown to bring the joy of Shakespeare to countless classrooms across Central Texas, including Free Minds.

During this ten week workshop, program graduates are exploring and performing speeches from Shakespeare’s vast repertoire.

Each participant joins the workshop with their own connection to Shakespeare. As DeAnna Guilbeau ’16, explained, “I saw my first Shakespeare play when I was 8—Othello. As an adult, I recognize it was a heavy thing for a kid to be watching. But as a little Black girl seeing a Black man in a lead role, my love of Shakespeare began that moment. I was hooked.” 

The group started with a scene from one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works, Sir Thomas More. Premiering between 1591 and 1593 and written by a handful of playwrights, the play offers a roughly biographical account of Thomas More, an advisor to King Henry VIII who was executed by the state.
One of the major themes in the play is Elizabethan xenophobia. Performing the part of More chastising an anti-immigrant mob, participants proclaimed, “Wash your foul minds with tears, and those same hands,/ That you like rebels lift against the peace,/ Lift up for peace.” More’s urgent plea for humanity rang through our screens as we realized that during this time in our country, Shakespeare’s words mean more than ever.

Up next, these Shakespeareans will dig into Hamlet’s famous “advice to the players” speech. Participants will continue practicing lines, getting comfortable with Shakespearean rhythms, and bringing the language to life. The workshop will culminate in a recorded performance to be shared amongst our community.

Break a leg, Shakespeareans! We are sure this workshop’s rendition will elicit a standing ovation!
Applications Open for Upcoming Free Minds Class

Do you picture 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 two semester college course in the humanities for adults with tuition, books, and childcare covered at no cost to students.

We will determine whether to meet remotely or in person as the start of fall semester nears, in accordance with recommendations from the CDC and ACC.

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

The deadline is July 9, 2021.
The Final Word
Current student Robert Hoffman shares his experience returning to college. After charting a path through a bumpy registration process, Robert brings a renewed passion for higher education to the classroom.
When I received an email about the Free Minds class for spring 2021 from Foundation Communities, I took it as an answer to my prayers. I have wanted to go back to school for some time now, but I had some hurdles to tackle to be able to do that. I attended ACC about 10 years ago but dropped out. This caused several blocks that prevented me from re-enrolling. I had an academic hold, a past due balance, and my loans were defaulted. I needed help.
In the year prior to learning about Free Minds, I made several attempts to register for classes at ACC. I had a difficult time clearing my holds and had basically given up on getting back in. When I received word of Free Minds, I immediately applied for the program. I would not have been able to return to school if it were not for my acceptance into the program.
Free Minds has provided so much assistance and has helped me realize my dream of going back to school. I am now part of a community of like-minded individuals who, like me, also needed help with their dreams of returning to school. Free Minds has become more than just an opportunity for me to return to school; it is a community effort to bring opportunity back to those who have lost it or need help finding it.
I am thankful to be a part of this community. The course has helped me acclimate back to college life. My writing skills have improved drastically thanks to this class and our awesome professors. I enjoy attending class, and I am always excited for the next lesson! Free Minds has blessed me with a new course in my life. It has given me the opportunity to prosper once again.
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: Dallas Klein
F: 512-447-0288
Ph: 512-610-7961