OPEN MINDS was founded in 2011 with a $13,000 community engagement grant from VCU's Council for Community Engagement (CCE). Since then it has offered two courses in the humanities every semester, generating thoursands of service-learning hours at VCU and continuing education units for residents of the Richmond City Justice Center. In 2012, OPEN MINDS earned the CCE's Current of Change Award for Exemplary Partnership in Teaching.
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In 2013, the program received an additional $25,000 grant from the VCU Office of the Provost's Quest for Distinction Innovation Fund and has expanded to include a recording studio, student-led art and writing workshops, internships, independent studies, a letter writing program between residents and college students, community publishing of student work, and Sanctuary, a re-entry initiative connecting formerly incarcerated OPEN MINDS students with the VCU community.