Q: How did you first become involved in Minds Matter?
Erika: I was teaching in the English department at Hunter College when I got an email from one of my colleagues saying that her sister was recruiting writing advisers to help high school students with college essays. Before Hunter, I had worked as an elementary school teacher, and I realized that the kids I would be helping at Minds Matter would be the same age as the kids in my first class would have been. I have always worked with students from families with lower incomes, and had seen these kids at the beginning and end of their academic career. Working with high school students was a wonderful way of completing the circle. That was in 2009, and I’ve been with Minds Matter ever since!
Q: What was your college experience like?
Erika: I went to the University of Texas at Austin as an undergraduate. As for most people, going to college was a life-changing experience. I really took advantage of everything my school had to offer—which, as the largest university in America at the time, was a lot! I double-majored in English and Economics, but I also made room in my schedule to explore things that I was interested in but knew little about. I took Italian Cinema and a course on the Inquisition; I did an intensive honors program on World War II; I studied abroad at Oxford. And while academics were important to me, I also held a position in Student Government, went to football games, and worked as a Resident Assistant (RA) in the largest dorm in the country. And the friends that I made in college are still my friends almost twenty years later. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Q: What goes on in your life outside Minds Matter?
Erika: I’m married to a wonderful man and have two dogs, so the three of them keep me pretty busy! My husband and I are both big readers, so we spend a lot of time at bookstores and coffee shops in our neighborhood in Brooklyn. One of my favorite authors, Toni Morrison, just came out with a new book, so you’ll probably find that in my bag over the next few weeks.
Q: Where do you want to see Minds Matter in five years?
Erika: Minds Matter has the most amazing group of students and volunteers of any organization I’ve seen. I hear great things about our students every day, from people both inside and outside Minds Matter. But New York City has thousands more high school students who could benefit from the great programming we have to offer. I think that everyone in our organization truly believes that minds matter, so the challenge for all of us will be figuring out how to reach and serve even more accomplished, low-income students in the next five years without losing any of the elements that make us great.