Meet Free Minds student Jennifer Reyes

At 24, Jennifer Reyes is one of the youngest Free Minds students, but when she came to interview for a spot in the program in July, she said she had already waited too long to start college.

“The way my caseworker explained this program to me, it helps you get started, so you’re ready when you go to ACC,” Jennifer explained when AmeriCorps volunteer Hana Silverstein caught up with her midway through the semester. “I knew it would be hard work – but not actually being in class, you don’t really know. But once I started going, I liked every class.”

Jennifer has nearly perfect attendance. The only class she missed was the day she got her wisdom teeth pulled, a testament to how seriously she takes this opportunity. “I never thought I’d think that way about education,” she said. “I almost feel like a whole new person. Now I tell my friends, ‘Get your GED! Go do something. I’ll go with you.’ That was never me. I was never the one pushing anyone.”

History has been her favorite subject. Jennifer loved picking apart Samuel Huntington’s anti-immigration essay, “The Hispanic Challenge,” with Professor Neil Foley and learning about detention centers with guest speaker Andrea Black, director of the Detention Watch Network. “It changed my whole perspective about what I want to do in my life,” Jennifer said. “At first I wanted to do business administration, but now I want to do something that helps immigrants. Farther down the road, maybe I’ll find something else, but that opened my eyes and changed my mind.”

Just down the hall, Jennifer’s six-year-old daughter, Rosalie, participates in the Camp Fire USA program while Jennifer is in class. “She knows I’m in school, and she thinks it’s great. I’m like, yeah! You gotta keep going to school till you’re old and old and old!”

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