Wilbert at his new food truck job
Dear Free Minds Friends and Supporters,
We hope everyone had a lovely summer and that you are all ready for fall! At Free Minds, we’ve been very busy, and the past few months have flown by. As always, your support has helped us and our members achieve many of our goals, but this summer, especially, you’ve helped us make lasting connections with people all over the country! Here’s what we’ve been up to lately:
Creating Life-Changing Opportunities
In August, Free Minds Executive Director Tara Libert, Free Minds member Wilbert, and Free Minds friend Liz Ryan traveled to Los Angeles to attend the Homeboys National Network Conference, organized by Homeboys Industries. Homeboys Industries, based in California, provides employment, job training, and other free services and programs to formerly-gang-involved people, giving them opportunities to make important lifestyle changes and avoid violence.
At the conference, Tara, Wilbert, and Liz learned more about Homeboys Industries’ comprehensive therapeutic approach to violence prevention and creating lasting community change. They also met with Homeboys Industries founder Father Greg Boyle, whose motto is “nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Additionally, while at the conference, our Free Minds delegates met with other organizations who share our mission, such as the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. We’re excited to incorporate what they learned into our own programs in DC!
As an added bonus, this was Wilbert's first opportunity not only to fly in an airplane, but also to see the ocean and to see his horizons broadened (literally!). We can't wait to see where this journey takes him next.
Bringing Awareness to College Classrooms
In our last update, we talked about our youth violence prevention program, On the Same Page, and its exciting expansion to include college students. This summer, we continued this trend, reaching classrooms at Georgetown and Howard Universities. Students had this to say about the experience:
“Thank you so much. I know this is supposed to be our day of service, but I feel like you all have done a great service to me. Thank you.” - A Howard University student who participated in On the Same Page as part of the annual Day of Service
"Meeting the Free Minds Poet Ambassadors was the highlight of my freshman orientation. Hearing their stories made me even more committed and excited to pursue my passion for social justice." - A Georgetown University student
Free Minds friend Frank, a returning citizen, was honored to participate in On the Same Page as a Poet Ambassador:
"Sharing my life story with the Howard students was life-changing for me. It was amazing having people who really listened. It made me realize that this is what I want to do. I want to keep talking to people and telling them about the prison system and what we can do to keep people from entering that system."
Learning doesn’t stop at the primary or secondary levels, so our violence prevention program shouldn’t either. We hope to reach even more college campuses in the near future, and we are eager to see where our growth leads us next!
Going Above and Beyond
This summer, we conducted in-house apprenticeships with two younger members, Steven and Diquan. Steven and Diquan just came home from the DC Jail, and at only 17 years old, they are our youngest members to complete the apprenticeship program! As apprentices, they learned valuable job readiness skills, provided program support for other Free Minds members who are still incarcerated, and created action plans to help them achieve their educational and career goals.
Meanwhile, our other Reentry Support members have continued on their paths to success, with successful job placements in construction, commercial driving, and food services. Poet Ambassador Charlie signed on as a co-facilitator for our weekly writing workshops at the New Beginnings Youth Development Center (DC's juvenile detention facility), meeting with the teenagers every week to share his story and talk about how books and writing helped him change his life. Finally, Wilbert began working in a food truck in preparation for his plan to launch his own food truck, where he hopes to employ Free Minds members in the future. We are so proud of our Reentry Support members and their incredible accomplishments. We hope you will join us in congratulating them all!
We know that our success and the changes we and our members continue to make in our communities would not be possible without your unfailing support. Thank you again for helping us achieve our goals!
Wilbert (R) with Devon from Homeboys Industries
Poet Ambassadors & Georgetown University students
Pedro and LJ with Ms. Keela in the office
Eddie supporting Wilbert at work
Wilbert's first visit to the ocean