Meet Lamont Smith
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.
“I felt I could do more, contribute more, and jump to something else,” Lamont says, “But I wouldn’t have had the confidence if not for the Clemente Course.”
Lamont grew up in public housing in New York City and always excelled in school, but found his options were limited: “My curiosity for the larger world outside my neighborhood definitely outran what I was offered in my local public school. I sensed from early on that I was being prepped to be a worker instead of being exposed to the teachings of thinkers like Nietzsche and Plato.”
He ended up leaving high school early and earning a GED. He was in a workforce training program when he saw a flyer for the Clemente Course on a bulletin board. Clemente was in its earliest years, recruiting just its second class. For Lamont the chance to explore philosophy, an area he had dabbled in but not studied formally, drew him to the course.
“Clemente was the opposite of the experience I had in public school. Everyone was there on purpose and excited to learn,” he says. “These were college professors giving us college-level work, not dumbing it down. They respected our intelligence and advanced it.”
The experience proved to be just what Lamont needed. He enrolled in classes at the City University of New York right after completing Clemente and took a job in the mailroom at the NBA offices. Soon after, he caught the “television bug.” He took every small production job he could find and launched his career through an unpaid internship with a hip-hop television producer. After his time with Clemente, he was sure he could handle the work in front of him.
Today Lamont has traveled the world from Korea to France to Brazil to Russia. He’s been to five Tours de France and three Olympic Games and won an Emmy Award for his coverage of the London Olympics. He and his wife have a daughter about to start kindergarten, and he will make sure she doesn’t suffer from what he calls “the bigotry of low expectations.”
Told that the Clemente Course he knew in its earliest days has now spread to more than 30 locations in North America and even to other continents pleases Lamont. He says the the power of the course lies in unlocking and helping people see what they have inside them already. “From the moment I stepped into that class, they made me feel that I was worthy,” he says. “Knowing and being made to feel that we belong and that our voice and intelligence matter made all the difference.”