Free Minds
May 2011
Welcome to our e-newsletter
Minds in Motion  

This month's newsletter honors the 16 members of the Free Minds class of 2011. It has been an privilege to join in their intellectual journeys this year. Congratulations, graduates!

Free Minds Celebrates Its Fourth Graduating Class


"I always wanted to go to college; I just thought that I wouldn't be able to make the grade," says Rachel Martinez, Free Minds '11. But when she saw her youngest son wavering about attending college, 58-year-old Martinez decided to take the plunge herself. "My son graduated from high school on a Friday and I became a student the next Monday," she says.


On May 23, Martinez was one of 16 adult students honored at the Free Minds graduation ceremony at UT's Harry Ransom Center. When the graduates crossed the stage to receive their medals of achievement, it was an emotional moment for all.


The room was filled with students' friends and family, as well as past graduates of Free Minds, faculty from UT and Austin Community College (ACC), and other supporters. Dr. Gregory Vincent, Vice President of Diversity and Community Engagement at UT, opened the ceremony by commending students on their determination and academic achievement. Fern Viking '11 sang a beautiful rendition of "When You Wish upon a Star," and Hope Johnson '11 delivered a congratulatory speech, an excerpt of which can be found in the "Final Word" below.


The ceremony marked the end of an extraordinary year, but it also marked a new beginning for many.


"Looking back I see more growth in these last ten months than I have in the last ten years," says Emily Whitehurst '11, who will start at St. Edward's University as a sophomore in the fall. "The program has taught me to believe in my dreams and goals."


Hilda Rivas '11, who was also accepted to St. Edward's, plans to pursue a degree in nursing. "I stress to my children the importance of an education," she says. "It was important to me to be able to show this through my actions as much as my words." 


Rachel Martinez was awarded a Housing Authority resident scholarship to continue her studies at ACC. She will start working toward an associate's degree in creative writing this fall. 

Foundation Communities to Host Classes in 2011-12



We are excited to announce that Free Minds classes will be held in 2011-12 at M Station, Foundation Communities' newest housing site. Set to open this summer, M Station is a brand-new community on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in close proximity to the MLK Metrorail station in one of the richest public transportation corridors in Austin. Foundation Communities has been a valued community partner since Free Minds was founded in 2006, and we're thrilled to work together in this capacity again.
Free Minds Accepting Applications


Recruitment has begun for the 2011-12  academic year! Free Minds is seeking motivated adult students to join us for a challenging and engaging two-semester humanities class starting in late August.


If you know of any adults who would thrive in Free Minds, please direct them to our website or to our office at (512) 232-6093. Applications are also available online! Submit an application online now.

Issue 14
In This Issue
Congratulations Class of 2011!
Foundation Communities to Host Classes
Free Minds Now Accepting Applications
The Final Word

Special Thanks

No student completes Free Minds alone. All have been bolstered and supported by those in their lives who believe in them and have lent a hand when needed - babysitting, proofreading, helping get a paper printed, enabling them to leave work early, making quiet space for reading and studying. Our thanks is boundless to the spouses, partners, children, parents, supervisors, case managers, friends, relatives, and neighbors who have stood behind this amazing group of graduates.

 If you are interested in supporting Free Minds, you can find more information on our website.

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Minds in Motion



April 2011

Learn how Free Minds brings writing into the community. 


March 2011

A college fair, Camp Fire USA, and things that go boom in the night.


February 2011 

 Literary, theatrical, and social events galore! Plus, a revealing look at the program's impact.


January 2011 

Arabic literature, American art, and a brand-new writing workshop.  


December 2010 

Staff, students, and an alumna offer thanks for a successful semester and a dream job.


Visit the complete archive on our



The Final Word  

Hope Johnson, Free Minds '11, spoke on behalf of her class at graduation on May 23. Below are excerpts from her speech. 

Hope Johnson, left, with project director Vivé Griffith

Hope Johnson (L) with Project Director Vivé Griffith 

Hello faculty, supporters, family and friends of this year's graduating class of Free Minds. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for accompanying us on what was a tearful, joyous and life-altering journey...

I wish I could tell all of my classmates' stories but instead, I will let their words express how Free Minds has enriched their lives:
Rachel states her time with Free Minds as the most useful and valuable time of her life. Emily is a more confident student and she is no longer afraid to ask questions (she has also been accepted officially as a student of St. Edward's. Go Emily!), Liz is no longer bounded by words she could never find, she has now found the words. Andrea has gained confidence, Lorena has found a new mantra that a lot of us could live by: "it's never too late!" Fern expressed how Free Minds has strengthen her abilities as a writer, Lucia's passion has been unlocked, Ileana has been given tools she will use well into her life as she continues her educational journey, and Free Minds has helped Shermin become a better reader, writer and thinker.

To Professor Jean Lauer, thank you for being direct and forward when dissecting tales of The Arabian Nights and teaching us about Humanities. Professor John González, thank you for defining literature and its significance in our world. This was ever so evident when we read the story of "The Open Boat." And a special thank you to John's lovely wife Patricia García who also participated during the Midsummer Night's Dream portion of our literature unit. Literature was brought to life by this husband and wife duo. Professor Tiffany Gill introduced history in a way our former educational experience did not. Thank you for sharing with us the different voices on slavery like those that travel from afar and landed on Ellis Island and the impact of the Americas had on their lives as slavery and immigrants came together or not during this time. Professor Noah Mass, thank you for your supportive critique, your patience and expertise which was demonstrated during our first major writing assignment. Thank you, professors, for being who you are and knowing what you know and sharing that information. We will be eternally grateful to your contribution to the expansion of our minds...

I'm so glad I was part of Free Minds and the experience it has given us all.
We did it!
The University of Texas at Austin
A program of the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, in partnership with the UT Humanities Institute, Austin Community College, and Foundation Communities, 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
Community Engagement Center
1009 East 11th Street, #218
Austin TX 78702

Project Director: Vivé Griffith

Project Assistant/AmeriCorps VISTA: Hana Silverstein

Ph: 512-232-6093   F: 512-236-1729