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Interview with Clemente Scholar C.J. Posk

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CJ Posk

C.J. Posk lives in Worcester, Massachusetts and is the proud mother of a daughter and son, and grandmother of five. She has a great interest in preserving and sharing history, especially with children. She is the author of Worcester Stacks Up: Firsts and Fun Facts, a full color book brimming with Worcester History. C.J.’s essay,  “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste: A Call for a 21st Century New Deal” was featured in the We, Too, Are America anthology published in tandem with the 2020 Clemente Summer Writing and Media Literacy Class, funded by the Andrew M. Mellon Foundation. The following is an interview of C.J. conducted by Mass Humanities staff member Michelle Wilson.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, and how you came to be involved with the Clemente Course?

I wrote the book, Worcester Stacks Up, ten years ago and I’ve been working on another. Elizabeth Bacon, Clemente Worcester’s Community Coordinator, ran into me often as I researched at the library, and twice she asked me about signing up for the Clemente Course. The second time, it worked. Going back to school sounded exciting.

How has your understanding of the humanities changed through the Clemente Course and writing program?

My understanding changed a lot. I really got educated, and learned about so many things, from American history to art and critical thinking. When it came to attending the poetry class, I thought, what the heck are we doing with poetry? But during COVID, I ended up having no cards to send people for special occasions, and I concocted my own poetry, which came in handy. I love learning.

Your essay “Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste”, is about our country’s social safety net. Can you tell me why you chose this topic to write about?

I chose this topic because I’ve had personal experience throughout my life with Social Security, and I wanted the then-current administration, especially with COVID, to bring back another New Deal for the current generations.

How was your taking the course perceived by your friends and family?

At first, they questioned it because I always have so much to do, and because I am visually impaired. It was probably also because I am 78 years old and no one expected me to be a student again at my age. After I started, though, they supported me because they could see how much I enjoyed learning new information, and how the Clemente classes were teaching me so much and feeding my love of learning.

How have you been faring through the pandemic and social unrest of the past year?

It’s gone by so fast that it doesn’t seem real that we were in a pandemic in 2020 and still are. I think that staying inside for so long made me acutely aware of how my eyesight was continuing to diminish. I would pour water and miss the bowl, and I’d not be able to read papers I used to be able to read. My eyesight has gotten to the point where I used to wonder how it would feel to lose even more of my eyesight, and now I feel that I have lost more over the past year of COVID. It has been a trying time seeing that loss happening to me. The part that has been really trying is reading, but technology is now my best friend.

How are things going with online learning? Did you take advantage of the offer for a free laptop?

I enjoyed every class I had, managing with my eyesight. It worked out with the teachers, as I would let them know if I needed anything extra. I did take advantage of the free computer and that helped with class.*

What is next for you? Any plans to take more college courses? What are your life, educational, career goals?

I would love eventually to take more classes. My next project, though, is writing a book about Worcester’s WooSox and I’ll need to focus exclusively on this project first.

What would you say to someone who is considering taking the Clemente Course? Tips for success?

Taking a Clemente Course is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. The classes were informative and entertaining, and I felt a real camaraderie with other students. My teachers were intelligent, fascinating and helpful. Being back in academia was challenging but well worth it. If you’re even considering it, like I was, I say go for it!

C.J. and three of her grandsons, Joey, Nicholas, and Zachary

*Mass Humanities launched a special fundraising initiative in the spring of 2020 to purchase laptops and internet access for Clemente students so they can continue their studies remotely.

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