Clementes provide sense of home
Noticing a couple of college aged international girls walking into church alone each Sunday, Chris Clemente wondered who the young ladies were. Then one Sunday after church while she and her husband, John, were having breakfast at Brick’s Restaurant in Arkansas City, the pair entered the establishment.
When the Clementes noticed the young ladies having trouble with their credit card, John walked up and took care of the bill. Since that cold, blustery day in November 2007, the Clementes have done their best to be there for numerous student-athletes in Cowley College’s Foster Parent program, including former volleyball standout Lucia Cizmarova from Slovakia and All-American basketball player Elena Yankova from Bulgaria, who were the two girls the couple met nearly seven years ago.
“From that day on those two practically lived at our house,” Clemente said. John and Chris have two daughters, Barcley and Heather, who both took classes at Cowley.
Barcley and her husband, Barry, live in Ark City and have also become very close to the Cowley kids.
Chris and John’s grandchildren, Cooper, Trevor, Jordey, and Logan have also gotten an opportunity to forge friendships with the student-athletes.
“It’s become a big family thing to where Barcley and Barry have them at their house all the time as well,” Chris said.
The Foster Parent program exists to help student-athletes from other states and countries adjust to their new surroundings. Foster parents provide the occasional home cooked meal and general emotional support to those athletes who are miles away from their families.
All-American basketball player Emilie Gronas was one of the Clemente’s foster kids over the past two years and will miss the couple as she prepares to play basketball at Duquesne University in Pennsylvania.
“Even though I will not be in Kansas anymore, I will always consider them as my foster parents or my American family as I prefer to call them,” Gronas said.
Nearly all of the former foster athletes stay in touch with the Clementes either by phone or by visiting Arkansas City. Goda Jankauskaite, an All- American on the 2011 national champion Lady Tiger volleyball team, came back to Arkansas City last Christmas and stayed with the Clementes for nearly a month.
While, former All- American basketball player Ariani Silva returned from Brazil to visit the Clementes in April.
“That speaks a lot as to how important they are to the kids,” Cowley women’s basketball coach Todd Clark said. “It is so important for our student-athletes to have a place where they feel like home.”
The Clementes live only seven blocks from the college. Their large two-story house has an outdoor pool, guest house, sunroom, and spacious living room, which is nice for entertaining guests. Also, each fall the Clementes host a picnic for the women’s basketball team at their ranch in Winfield.
“It has been a tremendous asset for us as a program to have people like the Clementes that care about the well being of our student-athletes,” Clark said.
Gronas, who came to Cowley from Bergen, Norway, said the Clementes were invaluable to her success at Cowley.
“When I came to Cowley, I did not know a single person. My family was thousands of miles away, and I had never lived away from home before,” Gronas said.
“Chris and John made Arkansas City a safe and joyful place for me, and every second I spent time with them I kind of forgot about how much I missed home. They simply just made my day better.”
The Clementes have many fond memories of their time spent with student-athletes in Cowley’s Foster Parent program.
“We have laughed and cried together,” Chris said. “They are all very smart girls, and it is interesting to learn about their cultures. I enjoy it, my kids enjoy it, and so do my grandkids”, it is very rewarding. It is a two-way street. We both learn a lot and they become a part of the family. We would like to have every one of them if we could.”
The Clementes have worked with the following student-athletes through the foster parent program: Women’s tennis players Kasia Siwosz, Karolina Porizkova, Natalia Medina, Adrijana Pavlovic, Diana Davitaia, and Maria Hernandez; women’s basketball players Emilie Gronas, Julie Ravn, Ariani Silva, Lisa Angell, Brianna Gonzalez, Anna Sonka, and Elena Yankova; volleyball players Lucia Cizmarova and Goda Jankauskiate; men’s basketball player Bernard Kamwa; and women’s soccer players Aline Tamiosso and Navara Do Carmo.
“Chris and John and the rest of the Clementes (Heather, Clay, Logan, Barcley, Barry, Jordey, Trevor and Cooper) are the kindest people I have ever met,” Gronas said. “To share so much love with who is at first a total stranger and most times from a whole different country is a rare and wonderful thing. They will always be in my heart and I know that I, together with all of the other foster girls will always be in theirs as well.”