Clemente students from the inaugural course at East High School immersed themselves in conversation and camaraderie during a field trip to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art during their art history unit. The exploration cemented friendships and a love for the humanities. Image courtesy of Jean Cheney.
A College Humanities Course for High School Students from Groups Underrepresented in Higher Education
The Clemente Course in the Humanities is offered by Utah Humanities in partnership with Utah universities, colleges, school districts, and high schools to provide a college-level academic experience for high-school students who will be first-generation college applicants. Clemente is an interdisciplinary course typically structured to match a four-quarter high school year with units in philosophy, art history, United States history, and literature. The course is intellectually rigorous, focuses on significant multicultural works, and uses primary documents, group discussion, writing, and collaborative projects as the basis for learning. The curriculum is consistent with Utah's Common Core. The goal of Clemente is to encourage students to find their own voices and agency in their communities, as well as to apply for and succeed in college.
The course was inspired by Earl Shorris's work with low-income adults in New York City in the first Clemente Course, for adults, which began in 1995 with the intention of bringing the richness and beauty of the humanities to those who haven't experienced them.*
Utah's Clemente Course has been underway at East High School in Salt Lake City since 2013 and West High School in Salt Lake City since the fall of 2017. In the fall of 2018, West High launched a second Clemente Course—Clemente 2—that offers Clemente graduates their next stepping-stone toward college. In Clemente 2, students deepen their humanities exploration with an interdisciplinary experience based on the text, It Begins with Our Questions: A Thematic Introduction to the Humanities, by Paul Allen (PhD) and Jennifer Bauman (PhD). Upon completion of Clemente 2, students receive concurrent enrollment college credit.
*See Earl Shorris, Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities, (New York: W.W. Norton 2000).
See the Oral History Poetry and the We Are One Public Art Project below for examples of what Clemente students are accomplishing.
What Students Say About Clemente
“Every week I look forward to the Clemente philosophy period more than any other class because of the deep questions and critical thought we explore. I love trying to solve the big questions like ‘what is life?’ or ‘what is love?’” - Clemente student
“Because of my participation in Clemente, I have been able to find and strengthen my own voice. I have found the courage to be a leader among other students and encourage them to grow in their own ways, I understand more about how the world and my community works, and I am excited to continue to learn.’" - Clemente student
Clemente Students Write Poetry from Oral History Interviews
Students in the Clemente Course in the Humanities have been recording the oral histories of friends or relatives as part of their literature class at East High in Salt Lake City, taught by Professor Sean Desilets and honors student Emma Metos from Westminster College's Honors Program. Focused on the theme of "migration" in literature, these students created some of their own poetry, based on these interviews. The poems speak of the separation and loneliness many immigrants feel, as well as the hope for greater opportunity in America.
The poem featured here is just one of the touching pieces. You can read the additional poems here.
When you are fifteen, you have your set of friends
My sister was shy
I was always outgoing
When you are new and older, it is hard to make those friends.
She was grown
And I was younger--too young to miss England
Her home, my house
We took a test
Five years was all it took.
It was different for her
For me, it was all the same.
- Aria Critchley, from an interview with her mother
Photo: Clemente students at East High School in Salt Lake City. Photo courtesy of Jean Cheney.
The "We Are One Inside Out Project" as part of the Clemente Course
As an outgrowth of the Clemente Course, Clemente students at East High turned their school "inside out." Although East High School is now 63% “minority” with Latino, Pacific Islander, Asian, and African American students and student refugees from around the world in its classrooms, many in Salt Lake still imagine the school as it used to be—predominantly white. The Clemente students wanted to show East High's true face to the world. Read more about the "We Are One Inside Out Project.
The Clemente Course in the Humanities is a Utah Humanities program offered in partnership with the University of Utah Honors College, the Honors College at Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, University of Utah College of Humanities, West High School, and East High School to provide college-level study of the humanities for high school students who would be first-generation college applicants.
The Clemente Course has received major support from Alternative Visions, a fund of the Chicago Community Trust. The Clemente Course also receives generous support from the Larry H. Miller Charities. The Clemente Course is made possible through partnerships with the the University of Utah Honors College, the Honors College at Westminster College, Salt Lake Community College, University of Utah College of Humanities, West High School, and East High School.