Clemintene Benjamin

I never dreamed that one day I would be able to say that I had a master’s degree. I’m very thankful. I was raised in a very poor home, and no one went to college. I’m thankful for the people in my life who pushed me on and stayed with me and supported me.”
Clemintene Benjamin
Clemintene Benjamin

Clemintene Benjamin was already balancing a considerable set of responsibilities when she came to the University of Michigan. At 35, she had finished an eight-year military career and was working full-time to support her seven children. Clemintene took a job at a nearby college, helping students to resolve difficulties and overcome obstacles they encountered in their educations. Now working within academia, she began to consider resuming her own studies.
Clemintene decided to go back to school for her undergraduate degree, all the while continuing to work to support her family. “It was very hard,” she remembers, “when you go back when you are a certain age, and you’re in class with people who are much younger, it’s an adjustment. You have to be able to meet the needs of your children. You’re still trying to meet the deadlines of your school work, and also having to keep food on the table.” Clemintene rose to these challenges with grace and purpose. “What I tried to focus on was not what was going on right then. I knew that if I could just get through it, I would be able to have a better life.”

Clemintene earned her BA at the University of Washington in Seattle before settling on the University of Michigan as the best place to pursue her Master of Social Work degree. “I wanted to go to the best social work school in the US, and U-M was rated in the top. Since they chose me, I chose them.”
Clemintene received a scholarship from the Center for the Education of Women in 1997 that helped defray the costs of her program and enabled her to buy a computer so that she could complete some of her work at home and spend time with her children. “The scholarship was very helpful,” she recalls. “I never dreamed that one day I would be able to say that I had a master’s degree. I’m very thankful. I was raised in a very poor home, and no one went to college. I’m thankful for the people in my life who pushed me on and stayed with me and supported me.”

Clemintene now lives in Las Vegas and works at the nearby Veterans’ Affairs Hospital. She aspires to create a program that will assist young women in escaping domestic abuse. “Sometimes life can beat you down to where you’re not able to pick yourself up,” she says, “but if there’s one person in your life who will stick with you, who will let you know that they’re there no matter what, that just gives you the will to say, ‘Hey, I can do this.’”