Free to Learn WRITING by QUINN GOETSCH COTTONWOOD ALC 322 Fuller Ave, Helena, MT 59601 If I had to describe Cottonwood in a single word, that word might be "thriving." From the first step into the open, one room schoolhouse interior, all are welcomed and immediately wrapped in an electric feeling which helps even the most hesitant get excited about learning and creating. During one of my visits as a community partner, I walked into a beautiful mess of cardboard - students were engaged in creating amazing things, troubleshooting as they hit barriers, communicating visions, and working together to solve problems and improve outcomes. It is not difficult to identify one of the sources of this magical energy. A contagious passion for learning exudes from Helena native and Cottonwood Co-founder Sara Casey Taleff. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sara and hearing about everything from her experience as a corps member in the Teach for America program in New York City to what fuels her daily drive to expand the options for learning available in Helena today. "I believe deeply in creating space where kids are free to learn,” said Sara, as we discussed how Cottonwood developed from a dream to a blossoming and vibrant community for learning.

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