Kellee Coleman, Class of 2008

When I started Free Minds in 2007, my son UsZee was four months old and I already had my three-year-old daughter Journee. At the time, I was living in South Austin in a one-bedroom apartment at a Foundation Communities property and making $8,000 a year. I had a 1987 Chevy Beretta that was on its last leg. It was a hard time.

When we began reading Plato’s Republic in the Free Minds philosophy unit, I gained a confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. UsZee would cry inconsolably with the childcare ladies, but I couldn’t bear to miss class, so I would walk around in class nursing my infant son discussing the Thrasymacus question and the idea of the nature of justice. At home I found myself cutting off the TV and reading The Republic to my kids. I would try and explain it to my mom, my brother, random people on the street, whoever would listen. I loved it. It was like I let myself in on this big secret: I really am smart.

I don’t necessarily believe it was the content of The Republic that changed me, but more the realization that I could conquer a book like that. I loved being in a seminar environment with people like me, working-class folks, discussing the book and having these interesting conversations about Socrates, feeling affirmed by my peers as well as my professor, Matthew Daude Laurents. I love philosophy, and I love to think about ideas and pick them apart to the atomic level. It is a luxury I really hadn’t tapped into until then.

Reading this book inspired me to go on to read other challenging pieces. It pushed me to always pay attention and to continue to develop my analysis on my perspective of the world we live in. As Socrates says to Glaucon when discussing the Allegory of the Cave, “the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already.” I know it has always been there. This experience just brought it out of me.

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