Meet Jewel Walcott
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.”
These days, Jewel finds herself creating learning opportunities for others as well. Last year after attending a screening of the film Selma with kids from her church youth group, she asked them what their generation’s cause was. They didn’t know. Jewel believes so strongly that young people should be using their voices that she and her business partner organized a Rock the Vote event.
Held at the Culinary Institute of America in nearby Hyde Park, NY, with speakers from the Democrat and Republican parties, as well as a keynote from County Executive Marcus Molinaro, the event drew young people from all over the area. Forty people registered to vote that night, in time for the 2016 presidential election.
“Clemente definitely encouraged us to be civically engaged, to take information and apply it to make an impact,” she says. “It encouraged me to continue doing that work."
For Jewel, this means supporting young people in building good lives. She recognized that there wasn’t much workforce training available locally for those who didn’t go to college. Since she and her partner in an event planning business, Blueprint Consulting, have lots of experience in the hospitality industry, they decided to change that. They piloted a 10-week training covering topics like food handling, customer service, resume writing, and even a pop-up café. The program is licensed through the New York Labor Department and is set to run its second class in the spring.
Those who knew Jewel as a young person wouldn’t be surprised to hear she’s making such a difference in her community. She graduated third in her high school class, was in the National Honor Society, and began college at Temple University in Philadelphia in 2000. But she lacked the funding and support to graduate. She actually spent her first semester without money for books, somehow eking by without them. After two years at Temple, she withdrew.
“Everyone I knew expected me to graduate college and do great things, so I felt like a failure and was very disappointed in myself,” she says. “Clemente restored my faith in my ability to learn. It was my second chance to prove something to myself.”
In addition to her community involvement, Jewel works in the Bard College Development Office, where she handles all receipts, writes gift acknowledgement letters, and assists the Director of Parent Programs Director. She got the job after graduating from Clemente when she spotted two women with Bard badges at an event and introduced herself. “I mentioned that I was a proud Clementine,” she said, referring to the nickname many Clemente students and faculty use. “One woman said they had some openings. I looked into it and felt that Bard was the right fit.”
At Bard and in the community, Jewel demonstrates her commitment to learning and creating opportunities for others. Marina van Zuylen, Jewel’s professor and Academic Director of the Bard Clemente Course says, “To me, Jewel embodies the Clemente philosophy: every human being should be allowed a way out of his or her inner and outer constraints, and what better than the humanities to jump start this process?”