Erica Grenger ’20
By Sasha Nyary
Erica Grenger wants to make an impact and she came to Mount Holyoke ready to learn how.
Part of her education has included working with communities near the College for most of her undergraduate years. One particularly influential Amherst College class, called Reading, Writing and Teaching, offered through the Five College Consortium, took her to an adult education program in Holyoke.
“It was eye-opening,” she said. “I had a lot of stereotypes about people who hadn’t graduated from high school, such as, people who didn’t finish high school aren’t successful adults. Many of the adults I met were successful. They were making a living doing something that they enjoyed or were good at. Also, there are many reasons someone may not have finished high school and it’s not necessarily because of lack of motivation. I really liked working with those adults.”
She’s also made an impact by getting involved, in her second semester, with the Coalition for Asexuality/Aromantic Awareness, a new club formed to spread awareness and eliminate the stigma around asexuality and aromanticism.
“It’s a very small club and most people don’t know about it,” said Grenger, who served as vice president and president. “It’s not a super-prevalent identity. Two percent are on the asexual spectrum. But it’s important to build awareness around it.”
She’s also been a member of the Student Government Association for four years and is proud to have been elected the senator for the class of 2020.
That may be in part because she’s learned to stand up for her ideas and opinions at Mount Holyoke. “Climate change is my issue, what I think is the most important issue in the world,” Grenger said. “So I say, stop mining coal and train the coal miners for solar energy. People argue but no one is going to survive on Earth unless we make a change. We have to live here.”
At the same time, her worldview is more inclusive, she said. “People say we shouldn’t let politics influence our friendships. When I first heard that, I thought, oh that’s so nice. But I’ve come to think that if you believe that minorities don’t deserve equal rights, or that it’s wrong to be gay — if you’re not going to respect people’s existence — then I’m under no obligation to respect you. I can now see things from other perspectives. I have a ton of friends who are different races, genders and socioeconomic classes. I like to see how they see things.”
Grenger has worked at public schools in South Hadley and Amherst as part of the teacher licensure program. She’s spending her senior spring student-teaching 9th-grade U.S. history and 11th-grade world history in Hadley.
“I’m lesson-planning for the whole week,” she said. “And I have a class at night. It’s a lot of work and I am persevering. My classroom teacher is going to get back from spring break three days late so I will be subbing for her. It’s exciting.”
Grenger plans to teach for a few years and hopes to pursue a master’s degree in social justice education at UMass Amherst.
“I’m really interested in education policy, and I think eventually I want to be an administrator,” she said. “Administrators should be teachers first. They need to know what it's like to be in the classroom, teaching.”