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  • Vive Griffith

Jacqueline Rosário Believes Everyone Needs to Be Heard

Jacqueline Rosário learned about the New Bedford Clemente Course the day before the recruitment deadline, but that didn’t stop her from getting her application in on time. She had immigrated from Cape Verde, an island nation off the coast of West Africa, a year earlier, and Clemente offered a perfect opportunity to reignite her intellectual life and connect her with the community. “I didn’t think about not getting in,” she said. “I thought, ‘I have to do it.’ I’m the kind of person who has to be engaged in something. I have to be thinking all the time.”

From the first class in the Fall of 2020, Jackie knew the rush to apply to Clemente had been well worth it. Her diverse group of classmates brought powerful voices and stories to the table, and her professors approached the group with empathy and care. After the first meeting, she said, “I already knew this was the best thing I’d done. And it was.”

Though Jackie had studied economics in Portugal and works as a teller at a credit union, she never thought she needed to study the humanities. In fact, she wasn’t interested. But class by class, she became a convert. She says that philosophy changed the way she thought about her life, and writing helped her build her skills in analysis. Just encountering art scared her; she worried she’d lack the skills to interpret it. Instead, she discovered she loved art and learned to bring her own ways of seeing to the work. The painting “A Woman in the Sun” by Edward Hopper left her thinking, “Surely this woman could be me.”

Jackie Rosário and her family

But as a recent immigrant to the United States, the history unit left the strongest impression. “When I began the course I knew nothing,” she said. “Or, as I told the history teacher, I thought I knew all about America. Now I know that people that live abroad just make an idea, and the idea is based on what America advertises.” In Clemente she was being introduced to real historical documents and coming to understand the country beyond the slogans. That gave her a new vantage point from which to see the world she lived in. “With the Clemente Course while I was experiencing and learning, I was adapting myself to all that I was learning,” she said.

Alongside the course curriculum, Jackie was impacted by the diverse voices that filled her classroom, even virtually. The open discussion and respectful listening were new to her and she thinks we need more of that in the world. It offered her something she plans to bring to her community of Cape Verdeans in Massachusetts: “What do people need? They need to be heard.” To make sure they are, she’s proposing a regular listening time to the Cape Verde parliament and has applied for a job with the Cape Verde consulate in Boston. And if that doesn’t go through, she’s considering running for office.

“Clemente just improves the sense of the need to do something for my community,” she said, “I’m going to find a way.”

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