Free Minds Graduates Fifth Class of Adults on May 23

The fifth class of the Humanities Institute's Free Minds Project, the only program in the state that helps adults living on low-to-moderate incomes jumpstart their college education by offering college-level coursework in the humanities at no cost, will graduate this May.

The commencement ceremony is at 7 p.m., Monday, May 23, in the Prothro Theater at the Harry Ransom Center. A map is available online. Students and faculty from the program will speak at graduation.

The Free Minds program is part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) at The University of Texas at Austin. It is a partnership among the DDCE, the Humanities Institute and Austin Community College. Students receive books and bus fare, and dinner is served each night before class. On-site childcare is provided through a partnership with Camp Fire USA.

"Because of its focus on the humanities, the Free Minds Project isn't a typical college transition program," Vivé Griffith, project director, said. "The program gives students the chance to reflect on life and 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."

The 2010-11 participants, who range in age from 24 to 56, study philosophy, literature, U.S. history, theater and writing. Those who complete the course earn six college credits in the humanities.

"Free Minds gives students the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking about themselves and their world," said Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. "They have the opportunity to recognize their intellectual capabilities and gain the confidence to start planning their pathway to higher education or career training."

The program also provides college and career counseling, with workshops covering topics such as financial aid.

"I always wanted to go to college; I just thought that I wouldn't be able to make the grade," said Rachel Martinez, 58. It had been 36 years since she'd been a student. But when she saw her youngest son wavering about whether to attend college, she decided to take the plunge herself. "My son graduated from high school on a Friday and I became a student the next Monday," she said.

Applications for the 2011-12 class will be available in June. Participants must be at least 18, have a demonstrated financial need and have a high school diploma or General Equivalency Diploma. For more information, call 512-232-6093 or visit the Free Minds Web site.