Clemente Course Provides Pathways to Success

March 17-19 marks the National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day. Members of the National Humanities Alliance—a nonprofit dedicated to improving national humanities policy in areas of research, education, preservation, and public programs—will arrive in Washington, D.C. to promote their work.Though most of the weekend will be spent on the Hill, the members will also attend presentations on a variety of humanities-related projects. One of the featured projects is the Clemente Course, described below.

Founded in 1995 and funded by the NEH, the Clemente Course in the Humanities offers college-level courses to adults living with low incomes. College and university faculty educate students through dialogues on “moral philosophy, literature, history, art history, critical thinking, and writing.” The classes mirror seminars at a small  liberal arts college.

Earl Shorris, founder of the Clemente Course, meets with students and faculty from the University of San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2010. Shorris passed away in 2012; Warren will speak about his legacy at the March 18 event.

Earl Shorris, founder of the Clemente Course, meets with students and faculty from the University of San Andres in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2010. Shorris passed away in 2012; Warren will speak about his legacy at the March 18 event.

The Features of a Clemente Course

There is no tuition for the courses, books are provided, and child care and transportation offered when needed. Most credits transfer to local community colleges and universities. Many of the over ten thousand students around the world who have taken a Clemente class have continued their studies, improved their careers, and gotten their own children through school.

The first Clemente Course was offered at the Roberto Clemente Family Guidance Center in Manhattan, but courses are now offered in several states and in countries on five continents. Students have access to courses in Melbourne, Australia; Seoul, South Korea; indigenous villages in rural Mexico and Alaska; and even an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Darfur. Although each course maintains the integrity of a Clemente Course, they also carry the influences of the local community.

The National Humanities Alliance Conference

The Clemente Course presentation on March 18 will be a powerful example to the National Humanities Alliance of how how important their work is, and the successful projects it can support. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will speak about successful Clemente Courses in their respective states, and both will reflect on the fact that Clemente Courses provide opportunities for people who previously believed higher education was unavailable to them.

Clemente Courses, or variations on them, are available in the following states: Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. For more information, please use our handout to visit their websites.

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