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Providence Clemente Veterans' Initiative Graduate, 2019

“We react to an experience based on what we believe is real,” Sarah Bregler told students in the Providence Clemente Veterans’ Initiative (CVI) during a discussion of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”

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Our summer edition of the Clemente Quarterly gathers photos of graduates from Clemente Courses across the country. Read on to meet some of those we celebrated this spring and summer.

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Illinois Humanities' Odyssey Project Graduate, 2014

One childhood summer, Jo McEntee, recipient of the EJ Hendricks Outstanding Alumna Award, read 40 books. For her reading was a way to explore the world. Years later as a graduate of Odyssey, it became a way of fostering community as well.

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The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced that Clemente is among its 2019 grant recipients, awarding two grants totaling $198,930 to expand its work in the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War initiative. The grants will grow the Clemente Veterans' Initiative to three new sites.

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The Teagle Foundation has awarded Clemente a $37,000 grant for its “Pathways to the Liberal Arts” initiative. The grant will enable Clemente to undertake an in-depth review of affiliate programs geared toward youth and determine how best to expand those programs to other locations.

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New York City Graduate, 1997

Lamont Smith’s journey to being an Emmy Award-winning video editor for NBC Sports included time spent pushing a mail room cart, fetching coffee, and working full-time without pay. It also included two semesters spent studying the humanities in one of the first Clemente Courses in 1996.

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Literature Professor, Jefferson Clemente, Port Townsend, WA

Pat Nerison was about to step down after years of teaching composition and literature in community colleges when she was introduced to the Jefferson Clemente Course in Port Townsend, WA. Jefferson Clemente founder (and current Clemente Executive Director) Lela Hilton made a presentation about the new program and Pat was sold. That was in 2000.

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Original article: The University of Wisconsin-Madison

Keena Atkinson ’15 knows what it means to persevere. Before she became a UW-Madison graduate and was recruited by a major corporation, she was a homeless, single mother. What changed her life trajectory?

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Graduate of Odyssey Junior in Madison, WI

At the NAACP office in Washington, D.C., where she is interning this fall, Trea Vance collects stories of racial discrepancies in the criminal justice system. A junior at the University of Wisconsin majoring in political science and legal studies, her work in Washington has furthered her resolve to go to law school. As an attorney—and ultimately a judge—she believes she can make a difference.

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Teaching Artist for Kids in Free Minds

When Freddy Carnes arrives to teach a few doors down from the Free Minds—the Clemente affiliate in Austin—he might be carrying a guitar, a box of costumes from a Shakespeare play, or a stack of journals kids will fill with their writing through the year. One thing is for sure: he’s there to create some magic.

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Original Post: University of Utah | College of the Humanities

Utah Humanities partners with the University of Utah to bring the humanities to high school students

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Original post- UMass/Dartmouth - Published by Office of Public Affairs

Associate Professor Mark Santow teaches Clemente Course in the Humanities to economically disadvantaged residents of New Bedford and Providence

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Katly Toles and Lukiki Akola often had to wait around to take the last bus home after their Clemente Course at the Care Center in Holyoke, MA. The time that could have been drudgery instead nurtured a friendship that has the two women calling each other mother and daughter. Now the Clemente graduates will be supporting one another as they both continue toward a degree at the Bard Microcollege.

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Co-authored by Clemente's own Vive Griffith

Original post at Safe and Peaceful by Abe Louise Young and Vive Griffith

Young people find voice, power and change

The high school generation is galvanizing people worldwide to demand gun reform, and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of protestors at the March For Our Lives this spring made their leadership clear.

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Graduate, Clemente Veterans' Initiative in Seattle

George Williams is on his way to becoming a psychiatric social worker. He hopes to work with veterans and addicts, people whose lives may not have been so different from his own. He credits his time in a Clemente Veterans’ Initiative class for preparing him to pursue his dream.

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Academic Director in New Bedford, MA

If you’re looking for Dr. Mark Santow, try a classroom. As founding director of the Clemente Course in New Bedford, MA, and Chair of History at UMass-Dartmouth, he’s got plenty. 

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Katie Kowalski
Port Townsend Leader, Mar 14, 2018

“I hate Shakespeare.”

It’s the line every teacher of the Bard has heard at least once, probably more.

Arendt Speser takes that comment as a personal challenge.

Speser is the academic director of the Jefferson Clemente Course in the Humanities, which offers free college-level courses to low-income adults.

This year, the class he is leading will be introduced to “Julius Caesar” through a public reading the class is presenting at The Boiler Room next week.

“I don’t expect everyone to love 'Caesar' by the end of our sessions, but I do hope to encourage a new enthusiasm for the old Bard,” Speser said.

The student readings take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., April 23 and 25 at The Boiler Room, 711 Water St.


Including a Shakespeare play in the Clemente Course is standard; the play can change from year to year.

“It can vary depending on the course theme and instructor preference,” said Speser.

This year, Speser chose “Julius Caesar” to tie into the Royal National Theatre of London performance of that play, which will be screened at The Rose Theatre April 21 and 29.

“I have no doubt in my mind they picked this play because of what it says to our current political climate.”

“‘Caesar,’” Speser said, taps into issues of power, corruption and the tension between tyranny and democracy. “In a more intimate way (it’s also about), what happens when conspiracy destroys relationships between friends and countrymen.”

One scene that will be acted out is a scene between Brutus and Portia.

That scene, Speser said, “speaks in shockingly contemporary tones about our current anxiety about gender and power.”


Port Townsend’s Lisa Wentworth, who said she loves to learn just for the sake of learning, is one of the students participating in the class.

“If we don’t learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it,” she said of the importance of turning back to older texts in modern times.

Turning to classic texts is fundamental to the Clemente Course.

“I highly recommend Clemente,” Wentwort said. “Knowledge is key, and it can open up a whole world for you.”

The community is invited to attend the public readings next week.

“Above all, the play speaks to the dangers of empire and the hazards of a blind patriotism,” said Speser. “It asks the fundamental political question: Is what is good for Rome good for Romans, and vice versa? We see a public trying to exert its political will, while also being manipulated by men in power.”

This, Speser added, is a relevant topic for today.

New York, NY (April 9, 2018)

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today announced that the Clemente Course in the Humanities is among its 2018 grant recipients, awarded $96,000 to expand its work in the NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War initiative. Projects funded through NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War grants will support humanities-based programs for military veterans and their families.
This is the second consecutive NEH grant Clemente has received to support the Clemente Veterans Initiative (CVI), which was developed in 2014 to provide a meaningful intellectual community to veterans who are struggling to adapt to civilian life. CVI is based on the idea that guided discussion of humanities texts and images can provide veterans with an opportunity to reflect on their military experiences and support their transition to post-military life.
Dialogues will be held in the Spring of 2019 in: 

  • Providence, RI, at the University of Rhode Island
  • Charleston, SC, at Trident Technical College
  • Boston, MA, at Codman Square Health Center

Each dialogue will enroll 15-20 students, the majority of whom will be veterans. Dialogues will meet twice a week for 12 weeks, using diverse texts and images to explore themes such as loyalty, moral injury and reconciliation. The course, including books, child care and transportation assistance, will be offered free of charge to participants. Transferable college credit will be available from Bard College.
“For more than 20 years, we have seen how the humanities helps marginalized people place their stories and life experiences into a broader examination of historical and moral questions,” said Lela Hilton, Clemente’s National Program Director. “In Clemente, we do this in small, classroom communities where conversations begin without judgment, and can then move toward understanding how our stories fit into the larger questions. What does it mean to live a good life, to be a citizen, to be human? We are thrilled to share this work with men and women whose lives have been so deeply impacted by serving in the military. It is a true honor.”
Founded in 1996, the Clemente Course in the Humanities is now offered in 30 sites in the US. It provides free, accredited college courses in the humanities to those facing economic hardship and adverse circumstances. Students are guided by highly experienced college faculty who, using the Socratic method, provide a rigorous education in literature, philosophy, American history, art history, and critical thinking and writing. Clemente was awarded the 2014 National Humanities Medal by President Obama. 
For more information:
NEH Announcement
Dialogues on the Experience of War

Kafi Dixon is the founder of Seeds of Change, an organization that allows individuals to come together to purchase food items collectively from local farms and wholesale distributors.

I never went to high school. I never went to high school. I was homeless; it was just too hard. When I was 16, I got pregnant and had my first daughter, and then when I was 19 I had mysecond daughter. Over the years I was ashamed because I didn’t have an education. I started several small businesses; a bedding shop, a farm stand, anything to get away without having to explain that I don’t have a GED. It was like this dirty little secret I was carrying around.

I really wanted to start a farm, but I needed a business plan to do that. I was paralyzed. I was unable to communicate my ideas for this business in writing. I’m more than capable of running a business, but I lacked confidence to write the plan, and I didn’t have networks of people I could turn to that had skills in writing, research or business planning.

That’s when I found Clemente. Clemente took my natural abilities and shined them so that others could see them. The professors and my fellow students also pushed me to recognize my own strengths. 

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Waldo Aguavivas is a student at Suffolk University.

In my family, other things were always more important than education. My mother had to work three jobs to put food on the table. She couldn’t come home and help me with homework or urge me to go to school. School was uncomfortable for me because I’m a gay Dominican male. I dropped out in 2005 when I was in 11th grade.

When I signed up for Clemente in 2011 I didn’t know what a syllabus was. My writing needed improvement. I struggled but I worked hard to improve, meeting regularly with the writing coach. Clemente made me realize that no question is a dumb question. I saw that others have the same questions I do, so I’m no longer scared to ask. The professors encouraged me to express myself. Through Clemente I learned self - discipline, and gained an understanding of what college is all about.

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