Tasha McMillion recently graduated from The Free Minds Project, a program offering free courses in humanities to adults who have faced barriers to higher education. A proud single mother of a son named Miles, McMillion started college years ago, but found herself unable to finish due to various circumstances.
“Free Minds has not only provided me an opportunity to get back on the college track I started years ago but it has also created a rebirth within my mind-spirit, opened my eyes to the world around me, and brought me back to my artistic self,” she said.
McMillion, who works at the City of Austin in Human Resources, loves to teach and do presentations, sing, dance and write. Free Minds inspired her to start up classes again at Austin Community College (ACC) and she plans to graduate with a Creative Writing Degree in December 2014.
The only program of its kind in Texas, the Free Minds Project is currently accepting applications for its 2013-14 class. Free Minds is team-taught by faculty from The University of Texas at Austin and ACC. Classes are held two evening a week in Central Austin for two semesters. Tuition, books, child care, and other support services are provided without charge. Students who complete the program earn six credit hours from ACC.
“Because of its focus on the humanities, the Free Minds Project isn’t a typical college transition program,” says project director Vivé Griffith. “The program focuses on analytical thinking and oral and written communication skills and gives students the chance to see the world from a new perspective. Students are motivated to go back to school, but they also gain the confidence to pursue promotions at their jobs and to become more involved in their children’s education.”
Free Minds 2013 graduate Angelique Martin said that the program helped change her life. Martin is a 45-year-old mother of three and Chicago native. Now working at Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, she was once incarcerated. Martin struggled to find work, but said she always wanted to learn. She was referred to Free Minds by her Goodwill case manager and has used the class as springboard to continue her education. She plans to pursue a degree in social work.
“Education can help you get everything you want in life, education can open doors,” she said.
Martin also said Free Minds gave her something else – a sense of community. In the graduation program, she wrote: “…I’ve learned to participate in my community and to help others whenever possible. I’ve learned to be gracious and to step back so others can be heard. Simply said, I’ve learned to FREE MY MIND.”
To learn more or apply online, visit the Free Minds website at www.freemindsaustin.org or call the Free Minds office at (512) 232-6093 to request a paper application. The application deadline is July 5.
Applicants need to have:
• A high school diploma or GED
• Not yet have a college degree and not have been enrolled in college in the past two years
• Have demonstrated financial need
• Be ready to commit to attending class regularly and complete all assignments
By Jennifer Herber