About Clemente

  • Clemente Purpose

    The Clemente program provides a college-level education in the humanities to those who do not have the resources to pursue these opportunities themselves. By participating in the Clemente Course, students will develop the critical, reflective, and creative skills that act as a foundation toward improving their own lives and those of their families and communities. These tools will further empower them to make positive changes in their personal, social and civic lives.

  • Clemente Impact

    Give students access to resources that remove significant obstacles that would otherwise impede their ability to obtain a higher education.

    Bridge a  higher education with future goals by helping students to develop critical-thinking and reflection skills.

    Empower students to become active participants in the direction of their own lives.

    Secure partnerships with colleges and community organizations to create a quality, collaborative atmosphere of learning for the students.

  • Clemente Success

    The Clemente Program has qualified for 2 National Humanity Awards , which honor an individual or organization for significant work in deepening the understanding of the human experience and broadened engagement with history and literature.

    Earl Shorris received the award in 2000 for creating the program and remaining dedicated to his work in bringing the humanities to the lives of the impoverished.

    The Clemente Course earned the award in 2015 for improving the lives of disadvantaged and motivated adults.

History of Clemente

Program Origins


“If one has been ‘trained’ in the ways of poverty, what is needed is a beginning, not a repetition…If we learn through the humanities to want to seek freedom, to be beginners, if we learn to live a life not of reaction but of reflection, then we’re prepared to go on to do wonderful things and have a full life. We’re free in ways other people are not.”

    Earl Shorris, Founder, Clemente Course in the Humanities

21 years ago, Earl Shorris was a writer doing research for his book, New American Blues: A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy, and it was during this process that he conceived and developed the Clemente Course as its known today. In 1995, Shorris organized the first course at the Roberto Clemente Family Guidance Center in lower Manhattan, the location for which the Clemente Course is named. The experience was so powerful that the 1995–96 course soon inspired many more  independently run Clemente Courses, which have advised more than 10,000 students around the United States and in other countries.

Clemente in Worcester

After being discontinued in Worcester due to budget cuts in the early 2000s, the Clemente Course has fortunately returned to the city, thanks to support from local educators and state representative Mary Keefe, who spearheaded the program’s return. During an effort to reinstate the program to Worcester in January of 2014, Executive Director of Mass Humanities David Tebaldi was accompanied by graduates of the Clemente Course in Dorchester to talk to the state Legislature. Their presentation sparked Keefe’s memory, who recalled some of the graduates of the former Worcester Clemente Course and how positively they have impacted the community. Since the fall of 2014, Worcester now joins the cities of Dorchester, New Bedford, Brockton and Springfield to proudly represent the Clemente Course in the state of Massachusetts.

Clemente Courses

The Clemente Program allows you to explore various fields of study that will let you think critically and understand the perspectives of others. The following topics, also known as the humanities, will foster in you the ability to analyze and question:

  •  Literature and Poetry

  • Critical Thinking and Writing

  • American History

  • Art History

  • Moral Philosophy

How It Works

Students who apply are:

  • at least 17 years of age
  • can read a newspaper in English
  • belong to a household with income no more than 150% of Federal low income guidelines
  • are willing to consistently attend classes, do assignments, and complete the course

There are no costs to Clemente Course students. If you are accepted into the course, all costs, including tuition, books and bus fare will be provided.

Do you have children?
No need to worry! Students from Worcester State University will offer free childcare services at the course site.

Students who successfully complete the 28-week course will receive six college credits from Bard College. Students completing the course, but not meeting the requirements for college credit, will receive a Bard College Certificate of Achievement.