Crystal Luna dropped out of high school when she was 16 to take care of her new son, Mikey. She returned to school nearly ten years later because she wanted to set a good example for him and change her life.
As a single parent, she worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Despite the challenging circumstances, Crystal wanted Mikey to see and understand the value of a college education.
“I want him to be much further in his life at the age of 30 than I am now,” Crystal said.
Crystal will turn 30 this summer and Mikey is in 7th grade. Once Crystal set her mind to returning to school,she earned her GED. She also decided to get a jump-start on her college career by applying to our Free Minds program.
Free Minds is a free two-semester college humanities course for adults living on low to moderate incomes. The rigorous program is run in partnership with UT Austin and Austin Community College (ACC). After being accepted into the program, Crystal has spent the last year studying literature, American history, philosophy and writing.
Her favorite assignment so far has been reading Plato’s The Republic. Crystal overcame her apprehension about the dense classic early on in the course and proved to herself that she could, in fact, succeed in Free Minds. Besides
exploring new literary worlds, Crystal said Free Minds has taught her how to successfully balance her life’s competing priorities: raising her son, working full-time and completing her education.
One of the reasons Crystal was able to enroll in the program and commit to its demanding schedule is because Mikey can come with her. While Crystal is hard at work in discussion groups, Mikey participates in a Creative Action class. Creative Action is one of our nonprofit partners and the class is free for children of Free Minds’ students.
“Being able to bring Mikey made it so much easier as a single parent,” Crystal said. “He loves his class with Creative Action too.”
This month, Crystal and her fellow Free Minds students will graduate with six college credits. Crystal has already applied for financial aid at ACC and plans to enroll for the summer and fall semesters. She will be pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Music Business, Performance and Technology in order to live out her dream of working full-time in the music industry.
Newly minted with a degree, Crystal envisions many more doors opening in her and her son’s future. “Free Minds prepared me for what comes next,” she said. “The program helped open those doors.” To learn more about our Free Minds program, please visit www.freemindsaustin.org.