Lanna always dreamed of a life filled with adventure and learning. She was one of twelve children in a working-class family and grew up in a small town in Illinois. Getting a job as soon as she could, Lanna was proud of making her own money and being in charge of her own life. She intended to go to college but became a young mother not long after high school and her plans changed. After years of bouncing from one job to another to support herself and her daughter, Lanna is finally pursuing her college career by accessing the services offered through our College Hub program.
Lanna is one of 23 students currently enrolled in Free Minds, a free, two-semester college humanities course we run in partnership with the University of Texas and Austin Community College (ACC). Students earn six college credits from ACC in order to help them get started or return to the path of earning a college degree. Many of the students in Free Minds have faced barriers to higher education, just like Lanna, who struggled to afford college and pay for childcare.
Free Minds is part of our College Hub – a one-stop shop for nontraditional students who want to start or finish a college degree or certificate. In addition to Free Minds, College Hub includes a wide range of support services to help students consider their education options, navigate the admissions process and get the most out of financial aid assistance.
Being part of Free Minds is already changing Lanna’s life.
“I feel I was meant for college,” Lanna said. “People light up when you tell them you’re in the class. It makes you more confident for when you go back to school.”
She particularly enjoyed Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. It seemed like another language but Lanna pushed forward and loved when she and her classmates got to act out the play.
She is also looking forward to the poetry unit that will begin soon.
“Poetry gives me the freedom to be me and to express myself,” Lanna said.
Lanna said she learned about Free Minds at just the right time. She and her daughter live at one of our affordable housing communities and, when she saw the Free Minds flyer on her door, she knew it was the step she needed to take to get her life back on track. Not only is the class free, but there is a program offered at the same time and place through Camp Fire USA for students’ children. This helps promote intergenerational learning and removes the barrier of childcare for students.
Lanna wants to set an example for her daughter and is determined to finish college. She was previously enrolled at ACC and expects to return once she completes Free Minds. She hasn’t decided exactly what she wants to study, but she is considering something in the education field.
Right now, Lanna works at Lamar Middle School and said she feels at home in a classroom, helping students.
Looking to the future, Lanna hopes to find a career she loves and see her daughter achieve her own educational goals. She continues to envision herself as an adventurer and is eager to soak up all the world has to offer.
“I want to go everywhere,” Lanna said. “I want to meet different people, see different places and learn new things. And Free Minds is a wonderful start.”