- Vive Griffith
Clemente Thrives Down Under
In 2003, Clemente Australia offered its first class in East Sydney, after a visit to the country by Clemente founder Earl Shorris. Clemente had found a home on a new continent.
Today, Australian Catholic University--with its community partners--continues to offer the program at numerous sites across Australia. Since its inception, Clemente Australia has been enriching the lives of both the students who engage in the program and those that play a role in its facilitation. Across four Australian states, students have continued onto further study, and many more have taken the skills and knowledge gained in Clemente to instigate positive change in their own lives. This can be summed up in the following reflection from a recent graduate:
The whole course has helped me to strive to be better in my personal life, as well as in my academic life, in the way I speak, in the way I present myself, in the way I write, in every way. I have discovered that coming from a low socio-economic background has not been a hindrance to learning. My thinking has stepped up to a new level, and I’m a stronger woman because of it.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Clemente Australia took the opportunity to pivot to online classes, which was difficult for some students with limited computer literacy. However, as so often witnessed in this program, students rose to the challenge, and online options continue to provide opportunity where the pandemic still makes it difficult for some students to attend in person.
Clemente Australia has continually evolved and is committed to engaging with community and community partners. This commitment has led to book clubs and alumni groups. Students have furthered the important relationships formed in the class and in learning partner pairs, as is articulated so well in a recent Australian news article.
Occasionally, the programs in the U.S. and Australia have the chance to come together, such as when Australia Clemente professor Michael Griffith visited the Harlem Clemente class while in New York City and shared a session on Australia indigenous history and literature with the students. Michael noted that the experience of being with students in the U.S. was the same as it was in Australia, as the spirit of the classroom crosses time and distance. He said he loves how his Clemente students bring their full selves to the experience: “You can take a single poem to a Clemente student and suddenly their whole heart and mind is opened through being able to see through different eyes.”
Learn more about Clemente Australia on its website and in the video at the top of this story.