Sports Journalism Institute

Helping women and minorities get into newsrooms since 1993

Class of 2001: Aljentera carries on SJI message of inclusion in a different field

The Sports Journalism Institute is celebrating its 25th class this summer. Over the next few months we will feature the stories of some of the programs’ alums, as told in the words of other SJI students in articles written for The SJI Bulletin as well as our website. Here we offer a look at 2001 alum Clarissa Aljentera.

By Chris Shelton
Class of 2014

Although Clarissa Aljentera transitioned from journalism to her higher purpose nine years ago, she still uses the skills she honed through the Sports Journalism Institute.
The 2001 SJI graduate is in the process of writing her second book and uses her interviewing and listening skills to train people to help families and couples preparing for marriage.
Aljentera serves as Senior Coordinator of Family Ministries and Coordinator of Family Programs for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, where she also uses her influence to provide more opportunities for women and minorities, which she experienced firsthand through SJI.
“Now as a leader in the Catholic Church I definitely look for opportunities for young women— and especially for minorities—to figure out how I can personally can partner with them and lift them up because I know it’s important to pass on and share pieces of that,” she said.
Aljentera left journalism to pursue a graduate degree at Boston College in 2008 after two rounds of layoffs at the Monterey County Herald in about a year.
As an economic downturn affected several industries during the heart of the Great Recession in the late-2000s, Aljentera and her friends in journalism were no exception. She had friends get laid off and others who had their hours cut while some even saw their whole newspaper shut down.
“I started to ask myself ‘is there anything else I wanted to do’? And ‘what am I waiting for,’” she said.
As the dark cloud surrounding the profession became more prevalent, Aljentera selected a faith-based career—a direction she was trending toward since middle school when she started preparing for the sacrament of confirmation.
She graduated from Boston College with a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies in 2010 and served as a campus minister at Northwestern University before moving to the Archdiocese of Chicago.
“As a young woman who was practicing my faith, I knew that having a deep relationship with God was something really important for me,” she said.
Aljentera knew who she was even as a young adult, said Candace Buckner, who covers the Wizards for the Washington Post.
Buckner said she and Aljentera grew close after spending time together as roommates during SJI in the summer of 2001.
At the time, Aljentera was a cool California kid who loved soccer and had a youthful spirit, Buckner said. Aljentera never judged Buckner when she jumped on a bed in their hotel room, and a 16-year friendship blossomed from there.
“I think she makes people comfortable because she’s so comfortable in herself,” Buckner said. “I think looking back on it, when we’re in [our early 20s] everybody seems to be trying to impress somebody or fake it till they make it, but there was none of that with Clarissa.”
In addition to publishing “The Parish Guide to Social Media” in 2013, Aljentera is writing a second book that focuses on teaching people to write in a style that is suitable to use for prayer right now.
She also helps train people to teach marriage preparatory classes, provides support to parishes and churches as they prepare people for the sacrament of marriage and offers prayer and spirituality resources that help people deal with issues among family members.
The position is spiritually fulfilling and mentally stimulating, Aljentera said.
“It’s challenging to think about the needs of young people who are trying to get married and young people who are trying to start families. I like that my faith and who I am as a Christian is integral to the work that I bring everyday,” she said.