September 2021 | Issue 86
Another year begins at Free Minds, and this issue is all about fresh opportunities. New and returning students join forces for the first time in Free Minds history, the program welcomes a new Community Liaison, and current student Ivirruth Chable Morales reflects on the road that led her back to the classroom. Enjoy!
New Class Embarks on Fall Semester
In 1977 poet Audre Lorde said, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken… even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” In 2021, the newest Free Minds cohort launched the semester contemplating Lorde’s words and the silences they were poised to break.

This year’s Free Minds class looks like no other. Several students from last semester extended their exploration of the humanities this fall, and so, for the first time, the class includes students returning from summer break alongside students beginning college after years away from school. The returners inspired a sense of calm for those experiencing their very first day, showing it was possible to be successful here. It was possible to find reprieve.

Creative Writing professor Vivé Griffith walked students through free writing, the first item of an academic toolkit. “’How can I know what I think until I see what I say?’” she quoted before asking students to compose a list of sentences beginning with “I am," a way of claiming their core identities. The Free Minds community shared they were survivors, dog lovers, grieving, amid a process of self-discovery, full of hope, and, in one case, actively cooking (a perk of meeting on Zoom).

Academic Director Amelia Pace-Borah turned the conversation toward Lorde's speech, “The Tranformation of Silence into Language and Action,” and together, the class shared their responses, uncovering themes of power, resilience, and self-advocacy. As incoming student Brandy White put it, “This reading connected to a conversation in my personal life I really needed to have."

In this moment of national and international upheaval, class conversations will center on the theme of thresholds, how we express the spaces between. We will kick off the semester with a unit on literature, with Professor Patricia García guiding our exploration of Oscar Cásares’ novel, Where We Come From, followed by sections of Romeo and Juliet.

After our first weeks of class, one thing is clear: an excellent group of students has joined the Free Minds family!

To check out our full semester syllabus, click here.
Upcoming Events
Join our Upcoming Creative Writing Workshop

This fall, Free Minds is offering a free 8-week creative writing workshop facilitated by local writer and Community Liaison Taylor Kirby. The group will meet on Tuesday evenings beginning October 19.

For more information visit our website.
Film Screening and Discussion: A Reckoning in Boston

On Tuesday, October 5, we'll be collaborating with UT's Humanities Institute to view A Reckoning in Boston, a film that shares the stories of two Boston-area students who participate in a class like Free Minds, tackling issues of inequity, housing, and racism in their city. The screening includes a panel discussion with members of the Free Minds community afterward.

The event is free and will be held online. You can register here.
Write Together Saturdays Are Back!

Join beloved poet and educator Vivé Griffith for a morning of writing, sharing, and community building. All are welcome to attend! Our next event will be held on October 16 from 10:30am to 12:00pm CST.

Write Together Saturdays will be held online this semester. For details and meeting links, visit this page.
Welcome, Taylor Kirby
This summer, Free Minds welcomed Taylor Kirby as our community liaison.

Taylor has spent the past three years pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State, where she focused on fiction. During that time, she crafted a short story collection, built community with fellow writers, and taught sections of freshmen composition courses for the first time.

The pandemic threw some unexpected bumps into her grad school journey. As Taylor put it, “I spent half of my program online. After moving across the country to attend that was a disappointing change.” Despite the disappointments, Taylor also saw opportunities in the pandemic. Not needing to travel to and from a campus created more time for writing and reflection. And her students’ efforts inspired her. “I got to see a lot of students push through those obstacles toward their goals in a really difficult time,” she said.

Toward the end of her graduate program, Taylor spotted the Free Minds job posting in an email. She was drawn in immediately. “It felt like it was written for me,” she reflected. “It’s the kind of job that you go to every day and feel like you’re doing something important.”

As a younger student, Taylor came through her own set of challenges, which are now part of the toolkit she brings to Free Minds. Through her childhood, Taylor’s family moved often between Colorado, Florida, and Tennessee. By the time she graduated from high school, Taylor had attended ten different schools. The transience led to challenges with focus and attention. Despite this, she pressed on toward her college goals. “I learned that I worked well as a visual learner, when there are two stimuli at once. I want to be a lifelong learner and also a lifelong assessor of how I learn best.”

At Free Minds, Taylor will cultivate community partnerships, lead writing workshops, and support students at every stage of the program. In addition to tackling her new role, Taylor is practicing self-care in ways that she did not always have time for as a student, finding her go-to taco spots in Austin, adding plants to her patio sanctuary, and gaming.

We are so glad to have Taylor’s creative energy and perspective on the team!
Applications Open for Spring 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 college course in the humanities for adults with tuition, books, and childcare covered at no cost to students.

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

The deadline is November 7, 2021.
The Final Word
Ivirruth Chable Morales began Free Minds during a unique time. Due to the pandemic, students were meeting as a collection of square frames on Zoom rather than together in the classroom. For Ivi, this was just another obstacle she was more than ready to overcome.

This semester, as Ivi begins her second semester at Free Minds, she talks about her journey back to the classroom.
Years ago, I saw a flyer at my community's library board with the Free Minds title in black bold letters and a red background. I stared at it for a while before taking it down and putting it in my purse. Weeks later, it was still in my purse, folded up with the ends fading and crumbled.  

I finally decided to clean all the things that accumulated and were making it hard to find my car keys. Every time I reached into my purse, I saw the black and red flyer, still unsure how to feel about it. Now I had to make a choice—to either act on the strong feeling to write my application email or to let it go. 

I earned my ESL certification in 2001, then my GED with a diploma from National Adult Education. Those successes took time. I thought I wasn’t smart enough, organized enough, didn’t have enough time, enough money... But I did it, and I learned I was a much better student than I remembered. I earned a place in the Adult Honor Society. At the ceremony where I received this honor, my aunt, my husband, and our small daughter were there to watch. I had more dreams—to get a college degree. But I also had other priorities, like growing our small family and working to pay rent. At the time, I had no money or energy left for college. 

It took almost 20 years to find that Free Minds flyer, and it sent me back to that time spent with my GED peers and instructors, to the room where I got that USA flag pin and a diploma from the NAE Honor Society. The flyer was a call I had to answer. It was time to explore my craving to be in a class with instruction, to learn alongside others, to explore other people’s books, thoughts, ideas… and to share my own. 

The name Free Minds is so fitting. It is giving that inner curiosity and yearning to learn that was trapped inside freedom to finally be out and about, without fear.

It is wonderful to think that this will be my second semester at Free Minds. I’m so thankful for the faculty, staff, and my peers and friends. We all share a common space to gather together to learn freely and without fear.
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: Taylor Kirby

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