June 2021 | Issue 85
This issue is all about new chapters. The Free Minds Class of 2021 closes out the spring semester, and Community Liaison Dallas Klein shares her sentiments in The Final Word before her family begins a new chapter of their own. Enjoy!
Congratulations Class of 2021!
A great epic poem could be written about the Free Minds Class of 2021. In January, this group set out on a journey, and over the past few months, they have covered an immense distance.

During a tumultuous time, students built a place where they could come together to ask tough questions, share personal stories, and explore the humanities. They braved devastating weather and overcame health concerns. They landed new jobs, battled technology challenges, mourned the loss of loved ones, and welcomed new life into the world—all in addition to a rigorous course load.  

The Class of 2021 bridged the distance of a remote setting. During our last class night on Thursday, May 13th, they gathered to share affirmations with one another. Classmates thanked one another and honored each other's hard work and vulnerability. As student Ivirruth Chablé Morales shared, “I know we didn't meet in person, but I know it takes courage to show up, and I appreciate that so much in everyone—love this time here with y'all.” Another student, Rutanya Pearson-Mitchner added, “There is life changing energy in this Zoom room.”

This whirlwind of a semester culminated on Monday, May 24th with an online celebration. Free Minds alumna Shilda Fresch, '18, shared her vocal talents with the group, and Austin poet ire’ne lara silva gave a reading in honor of the occassion. Students also offered their own reflections on the past year. Leticia Segovia shared the words of poet e.e. cummings, reciting, "i carry your heart with me (i carry it in/ my heart)." While Tiffany Sutton shared her Dory-inspired mantra for getting through the semester: "Just keep swimming."

Congratulations, Free Minds Class of 2021! You are remarkable, and we cannot wait to see what you will do in this next phase of your journey.
Free Minds Shakespeareans Rocked the "Stage"
This spring, Free Minds held its first virtual acting workshop facilitated by Clayton Stromberger, Outreach Coordinator for UT Austin’s Shakespeare at Winedale Program and Free Minds’ go-to Shakespeare expert. The group met for ten weeks and wrapped up the workshop with a stellar virtual performance.

You can check out Free Minds Shakespeareans' rendition of an excerpt from Sir Thomas Moore Act II, Scene IV here.
Expanding Meaning Through Ekphrasis
This semester, Art History Professor Janis Bergman-Carton and Creative Writing Professor Vivé Griffith collaborated to highlight a subgenre of poetry called Ekphrasis. Ekphrastic poetry responds to other art forms to amplify and expand meaning.

At the end of the unit, students wrote their own pieces responding to Diego Velázquez’s 1656 painting Las Meninas.

Enjoy these excerpts and check out their full pieces here.
Jillian Joy Barre Newman

What will time’s stage make of me? 
Butterfly Storm 
adornment, adoration of the King’s eye 
Off the tongues of strangers
I am the focal point 
I am the conversation of glances 
I am the revered 
the envy 
of the men 
and women who wait, 
waiting on me 
here in this Grand Room 
in the dust of the shadows

Brenda Moran

My fur tingled as the dresses and shoes surrounded me and the command of 'stay' secured my paws into one spot.

I could hear the familiar voices chattering loudly behind me. But after a few minutes they began to sound like lullabies to my long floppy ears.  

My eyes slowly started to creep shut, and my head dropped lower by the second as I dozed into a dream.

Lauren Sustaita

Long, golden locks of straw reflect the light further as if a beacon of aid during the darkest battles. I bid these flowers through my painting to those who give their graces and power for peace. I look at her porcelain face and the fragility of her innocence. A door reflecting a dark shadowy figure. His stern gaze focuses on the little flowers in boldness. Luring in the shadows, as if to hurry them out. The dark haired one whispers a prayer and lesson of good bid in her soft, pale ear. Her gaze frozen and out of body, waiting to accept whatever is to come her way. I pay no mind, because I am free to leave.

Scarlett Woodall

The Queen's word hit like the hooves of a stallion. Silence resumed. Chatel moved towards Lucita. The air was still as if nature herself bowed to the Queen. "You are now a lady in waiting, personal attendant to my daughter. Her servant till your vigor is exhausted." The room breathed again as Lucita bowed to hide her smile. Her heart leaped. Perhaps it was a trick of the light, but as she rose, Lucita thought she saw Princess Isabella smile too.
Applications Open for Upcoming Free Minds Class

Do you picture yourself back in the classroom? 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 Foundation Communities, ACC, and the CDC.

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

The deadline is July 9, 2021.
The Final Word
Dallas Klein began her role as Free Minds Community Liaison in February 2020. At the end of May, she wrapped up her time at Free Minds to pursue new opportunities in Washington state alongside her partner.

Here Dallas reflects on her experience with the program and extends her gratitude to students, alumni, faculty and staff, and members of the community.
I now consider myself part of an elite group: those who have been forever changed by Free Minds. I stepped into this role as a wide-eyed graduate, having just finished my MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State University. I was ready to get out into the world—to make a difference through spreading the wonder of poetry. Naturally, the opposite happened. The world of Free Minds transformed me.

My time as Community Liaison started strangely. I, like so many, was ushered into my home, plopped in front of a computer, and asked to live in an unfamiliar, remote universe. Most of the people I’ve met in this community only have shoulders, necks, and heads! But without Free Minds, the isolation and loneliness of this pandemic would have gotten the best of me. I’ve been fortunate to witness how a community can take care of, uplift, and love one another despite difficult times. 

My fondest memory took place during early September. It was hot. The virus was in full swing, and we were nervously undertaking our first remote class—an English composition course for graduates of the program. Literature Professor Pat GarcÍa selected Oscar Cásares’s Where We Come From for her unit, and we needed to get the book to everyone quickly. Students coordinated with one another, and a handful of them helped deliver books to those who weren’t able to pick one up.

I remember one student driving up and saying, masked but obviously smiling, “Load me up; I’ll take five copies!” Despite everything going on in the world, these students wanted to make sure their classmates had their book. That’s Free Minds—a community that supports each other through it all.

This community’s excitement for knowledge, determination to help others, and deep understanding of storytelling will always be a part of me. As I begin this new chapter in my life, I’ll carry all I’ve learned from Free Minds. 

To everyone in this family, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
We're Hiring!
Free Minds is looking for a full-time Community Liaison to begin this summer. This person will take the lead on student recruitment and building community relationships. They will coordinate our community writing workshops, as well as provide administrative support and communication assistance for the program.

If you or someone you know is interested, check out the details here and send any questions to amelia.pace-borah@foundcom.org. 
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

Ph: 512-610-7961
F: 512-447-0288