Written by Vivé Griffith and Clair Norton
In this fall’s Free Minds classes, you might notice an ambitious young man with his hand raised high in the air, eager to participate in discussions. His professors and classmates adore his enthusiasm for performing scenes from the class readings, as well as his enunciation of Shakespearian dialogue. But not too long ago, a deep loathing of essay writing deterred James Price from applying to the program.
“I had been seeing Free Minds memorabilia since 2007, and I just blew it off,” he said. “I gotta write an essay? Nah, I’m not doing that.” Then in 2012, something changed. “It finally hit me. I need to do something that really takes me beyond my abyss.”
James worked on his essay with characteristic fervor. “I wrote and I wrote and I wrote,” he said. “I probably rewrote that essay like, three or four or five times before I finally sent it in. I just decided to do it because I knew this program would elevate me to the next level in my life.”
Since then, James hasn’t slowed down. He reads on the bus, thinks about paper topics when he’s at home, and dedicates his weekends to studying. He’s felt particularly compelled by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. And he says his writing has already improved.
But James thinks the impact of being in Free Minds goes beyond building new skills. “I feel like this type of education is helping me form into a better person. I used to feel like because I don’t have an education, I’m not going to really make it in this society. I don’t really feel like that now. I feel like, ‘Alright, I have an opportunity to prove myself if given a chance.'”
About Free Minds
The Free Minds Project provides Central Texas adults living on low to moderate incomes with a chance to fulfill their intellectual potential and to jumpstart their college education. Free Minds offers a free two-semester college course in humanities to adults who have faced significant barriers to education. Top faculty from The University of Texas at Austin and Austin Community College lead students in lively discussions and help to improve their skills in writing, communication, and critical thinking. Tuition, books, and child care are provided without charge. Students who complete the course receive six credit hours from ACC.