Advisory Committee Member Polly Levers on Why She Believes in Free Minds

polly levers“I used to live in the world!… Now my universe is only six blocks …”

I still get goose bumps when I watch this part of the Free Minds informational video. It’s the moment when Daniel Zamarripa, a student from the class of 2008, recites these words from Ntozake Shange’s famous play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.” I’ve played this video at least a hundred times over the past five or so years–to clients, friends, co-workers–anyone who will listen to me evangelize about Free Minds and the opportunity it offers participants to develop the tools and confidence to be seen and heard in the larger world.

As a case manager with Goodwill of Central Texas’ Job Source Program, I help individuals find work who have been struggling with their job search. Sometimes my clients tell me about their vision for the future. And sometimes, when I have shared information with them about Free Minds, something resonates. Over the past several years, numerous Goodwill clients have heard from me and other staff about this opportunity to connect to the larger world, and many have taken the leap of faith, applied, and been accepted into this community of learners.

One young woman with whom I had been working came to tell me about her experience after she had been in the class for several weeks. Everything about it thrilled her; she loved the texts and material and especially the diversity and community of the group. She had become part of something bigger. I know that the experience changed the way she saw herself. This kind of growth is good for anyone, and it’s especially good for people like many of my clients who have been struggling with the insecurity of unemployment.

When I met Daniel Zamarripa at an end-of-school party at the rec center where my daughter was taking classes, he was still talking about his expanded universe–now much larger than six blocks–and about how important it was that his children know they belong there too.

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