Congratulations, Free Minds graduates!

“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. 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 the congratulatory remarks on behalf of her classmates.

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.

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