Program gives the disadvantaged a chance to be a student

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Life was not always so happy for 58-year-old Donald Heyward. Much of his life was spent on drugs and alcohol.

Heyward says his life changed in January after being in treatment and he decided to take Clemente courses.

"The first thing, I put the drink down but when I started school I just have the best life," said student Donald Heyward.

Clemente is a program that provides free humanity and literature courses to the homeless and disadvantaged.

"It is the humanities that helps people think abstractly and think outside the box. Minimum wage jobs usually keep you stuck in a cycle on the lower end of the rung," says insturctor Mary Ann Kholi.

Kholi modeled the Clemente courses after ones being taught up north and gathered funding to start it. For two semesters, students learn history, art, literature, philosophy and writing.

Kholi says the courses bring elite teaching to the man on the street with the thought of changing their mindset and taking them from a life of poverty. The Clemente course is named after famous baseball player Reborto Clemente who was a humanitarian.

Kholi says the free courses also provide the students free books, transportation to the school and a home cooked meal made by herself. During the semester, she and other instructors take the students to free plays, ballets and symphonies all to give them exposure and culture.

"I believe we are here not to collect dust, but to make this place better while we are here," Kholi said.

"I don't understand how these people take time out of their lives to come help people like Brenda and myself. It's just so neat,"Heyward said.

Trident Tech's Palmer Campus is the only school in the Southeast to offer the free  courses to the homeless and disadvantaged. Kholi say some students have gone on to get a Masters Degree while one of her students is now working in television news.

The Clemente course is funded through grants and the ticket sales from plays that the students put on in the spring.

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