The Class of 2016 at Stonehill received their diplomas just weeks ago, but they weren’t the only ones to take part in a graduation ceremony at the College this year.
The Martin Institute recently welcomed 19 adult learners to celebrate their achievements in the Brockton Clemente Course. The program provides low-income adults free access to introductory humanities courses.
Professor Lee Farrow, the director of Center for Non-Profit Management, heads the program with Professor Corey Dolgon, who runs the Office of Community-Based Learning.
While Stonehill is the catalyst, the program represents a broad coalition with five local partners providing in-kind and financial support—United Way of Greater Plymouth County, Community Connections of Brockton, Harbor One Bank, Bridgewater State University and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who gave the Commencement Address at Stonehill in 2015 and whose skill and compassion guided the One Fund after the Boston Marathon bombing, is also a supporter of the Clemente Program.
Reflecting on this year’s class, Farrow said working with her pupils was one of the best parts of her job.
“I am amazed by the students,” she said. “We learn as much from the students as we seek to teach them.”
As part of the Clemente Course, the adult students take classes in writing, literature, American history, art history and philosophy. Upon graduation from the program, they receive a certificate of completion, and six college credits from Bard College. Many students continue their education at other academic institutions after graduating from the program.
Finding their Voice
Farrow said the Clemente Course’s benefits are boundless. In addition to providing students with a basic education in the humanities, the program also enables them to find their voice and realize their self-worth in spite of their daily struggles.
“One of the things we push in class is the issue of human dignity,” Farrow said. “When you see the person, you should really see them. You need to acknowledge their sense of humanity and respect their sense of dignity in themselves.”
The Brockton Clemente Course has been successful due in part to the relationships its directors have maintained with a number of partners, including the College.
“The Stonehill administration loves Clemente,” Farrow said. “There is great support for the program.”
During this year’s ceremony, the Clemente students heard presentations by different speakers, including senior administrators.
Joseph Favazza, provost and vice president for academic affairs, opened the ceremony with a warm welcome. Rev. James Lies, C.S.C., vice president for mission, then gave the Convocation address.
“I am absolutely convinced that that which happens in the Clemente Course in the Humanities is exactly what Stonehill should be about,” Lies said. “It’s all about a deep desire for learning, a deeper appreciation of the humanities, the arts, and of growing in ways that challenge us.”
Following Lies’s remarks, Celemente graduate Louisette Michel invigorated the crowd with a rousing performance of the song “The Potter’s Touch.”
“I am from a very remote part of Haiti,” she said. “There’s not been a day in my life that I’d thought I’d be here. I never dreamed of it. The song says it all. It says that God has everything written down for you in life. He’s going to take you there. It’s probably going to take a long time. I think God had it planned all along for me to be here today.”
After addresses were made by student speakers and representatives from the program’s partner sites, the Clemente professors took to the stage to confer the certificates of completion.
Throughout the evening, the Martin Auditorium was abuzz with excitement. The pride felt by the students and their families was palpable.
Brockton resident Graciela Rodriguez, (below right with her family) who came from Puerto Rico 30 years ago, seemed particularly excited about receiving her certificate. She said the program has put her on a path to achieve her dream of helping people.
“I was very interested in the humanities courses because I want to be a counselor,” she said. This is the first step to getting my education.”
Rodriguez said receiving her certificate was not the only benefit of taking part in the Clemente Course. She also enjoyed building a community with her peers and appreciated their support, especially when she struggled to complete her work.
“I was a little skeptical at first because it was a lot of writing and reading. English is not my first language,” she said. “It was very difficult for me, but I made it. I thank God and friends and peers that helped one another [in this program],” she explained.