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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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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. 


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. She is also featured in the documentary A Reckoning in Boston about the Boston Clemente Course.

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 my second 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. 


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.


Amy Howard is a member of the Port Townsend, WA City Council and is the executive director of the Boiler Room, a community art and social service center.

I thought I was going to be working in dead end jobs forever. Clemente showed me that I could think and that my ideas were valid. Now I encourage my volunteers and staff to take the Clemente Course because I know that it can change lives.

I grew up in a town of 500 people then moved to Seattle after high school. I became addicted to methamphetamines. When I decided to leave that scene, two street kids put me on the ferry and sent me to Port Townsend. I was homeless at the time, but I volunteered at the Boiler Room and that gave me a purpose.

I learned about Clemente when the program director gave a presentation at the Boiler Room. At first I was afraid to even try learning because I was scared that my addiction had ruined my brain, but the academic director made it seem so interesting that I decided to try.

Clemente was amazing. The subject matter was fascinating and the teachers were engaging. Most importantly, I was surrounded by other people who also faced challenging circumstances but were equally engaged, and wanted to learn. It was the catalyst that I needed to change my life.


Academic Director, Clemente Course, Port Townsend, WA

Dr. Arendt Speser

There’s a new kid on the Clemente block. In 2017, Dr. Arendt Oak Speser joined the team as the new academic director of Jefferson Clemente. He’s the program’s second director, stepping into the role vacated by Clemente National Program Director Lela Hilton, who founded the Port Townsend, WA, program in 1999.


2006 Graduate, Odyssey Project in Madison, WI

Around the state of Wisconsin, people travel to hear Corey Saffold speak.


American Family Insurance funds a counselor to work with Odyssey Project students

With a free humanities class, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Odyssey Project helps low-income adults overcome obstacles to higher education.


Dr. John Macready LIVE on The Jeff Crilley Show

Watch the recording of the October 4th live interview with Dr. John Macready on The Jeff Crilley Show where he discusses Free Minds Dallas.


2016 Clemente Course Graduate from Kingston, NY

One thing that’s clear about Jewel Walcott is that she never stops learning. A graduate of the course in Kingston, NY—where she was selected commencement speaker the following year—Jewel carries a notebook with her wherever she goes. “I use it to write down random thoughts,” she says, “or I watch a movie and find myself unintentionally writing an essay about it. My Clemente writing instructor gave me permission to express myself on paper.”


Professor in Bridge, Antioch University Los Angeles

Anyone who wonders how the experience of studying the humanities translates to the real world should talk to Rosa Garza-Mourino.


Congratulations to Halifax Humanities

Kings College student and filmmaker, Rachel O’Brien, interviewed and filmed Halifax Humanities students and teachers for this short film.


Graduates: Humanities courses equip students with skills for any profession

by Katie Kowalski as published at

Studying the humanities instilled in Justin Lake a deep sense of self and place in the world. He came to see himself as someone who could take part in society, make changes and have a voice.

“I felt like a more responsible citizen,” he said.

Lake is a 36-year-old single father and a graduate of the Jefferson Clemente Course, a branch of the Clemente Course in the Humanities that offers college courses to low-income individuals. He’s a naturalist who teaches all over Jefferson County, and he’s now working on getting a teacher’s certificate.

Erik Montoya, age 37, also is a single father who benefited from the free classes in the humanities.

“I know it sounds corny, but it really was a life-changing experience for me,” said Montoya, who is working to get a bachelor’s degree so he can teach history.

Their stories are not uncommon for Clemente students, said Lela Hilton, a national director who founded the Jefferson County branch of Clemente.

“They get that fire from education, and figure out what to do,” she said. “I think that all of our students see that liberal arts and the humanities are incredibly practical.”

Clemente offers its courses free of charge to qualifying individuals, and this Friday, June 23, is hosting NPR’s “Says You!” team to help benefit the program.


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