Jasmine Errico '17
"I'm a perfectionist, so, no matter what, I can never give 100 percent to my son or school. I have to split it. So that's been hard, cause I want to. I want to be the person who has the 4.0. I also want to be the mom that makes cupcakes for my kid."
Motherhood, public health and social justice are the themes that run through Jasmine Errico's academic and civic work. She's a trained doula, educator, volunteer, single mom — honors student. She's had her struggles, but on May 5 Jasmine represented Holyoke Community College at the State House as one of the "29 Who Shine," an annual honor from the Dept. of Higher Education that recognizes one student from each of the state's 29 public colleges and universities. She graduated May 27 with high honors and her associate degree in liberal arts and is on her way to Mount Holyoke College to study to medical anthropology.
Activities, community service, employment:
Trained doula; volunteer (doula and educator), Prison Birth Project in Holyoke; volunteer, Grace House in Northampton; Grateful Momma Doula (offering free doula services to low-income women, single mothes, women battling substance abuse and domestic violence); HCC Organizing for Community Change Leadership Institute (worked with MotherWoman, noprofit support network for mothers in Hadley); Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corp. Summer Internship at Hampshire College; nanny.
Awards and honors:
"29 Who Shine" award from the Dept. of Higher Education (2017); Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society; Vincent and Patricia McElroy Memorial Award (2017-2018); Connors Scholars Program and Phi Theta Kappa Award (2016-2017); Kathryn "Kitty" Broman Scholarship (2015-2016).
Favorite course or teacher:
All the teachers and professors I've had here have been incredible. I mean, Vanessa Martinez for medical anthropology. That class really formed what I want to do. That's where I saw all of the disciplines that I love meet in one place. Birth work. Recovery work. Hands-on nursing. Social Justice. Reproductive justice — it all just met there. And Elizabeth Haywood Jensen. I did my CNA course with her and Intro to Health Careers. She really taught me about public health. And Ben Hersey. He was my professor for all my English classes. He's brilliant as well. And his classes are also really focused around social justice
Why did you choose HCC?
I got my GED at HCC when I was 19. I came back for a year but I was still having trouble. I failed two classes because I just never showed up. I got sober when I was 23. That's right before I had my son. Having my son really helped me focus. I have a friend who came here throughout her pregnancy and she told me how lovely and supportive it was here. When I came here again I was given a Fresh Start. I went into the New Directions program and the Pathways program and they were amazingly supportive. I didn't have to hide who I was at all.
What's been your most meaningful experience at HCC?
It would have to be the support I've gotten from my professors. It hasn't been easy. Jessie Lang, my Anatomy & Physiology professo, Ben , Elizabeth, Vanessa, Irma Medina, in Pathways — I've cried in all of their offices. I'm not someone who has the most supportive family. So to be treated so kindly here and to be given so much space and respect even when I'm having a bad day, it's been the best thing, the most meaningful. Just that, I guess, growing up teachers weren't very nice. It wasn't like a comforting environment. So to learn that learning can be really fun and fulfilling and teachers can be your friends. They're a part of my community now and that's been amazing. I love them all so much. I'm sad to go.
What is your favorite thing about HCC?
The complexity of the classes. It's so interesting. There's so many chances to take things that are really challenging in the way they make you think. It's not just, now here's what happens when. That's my favorite thing. I've taken a lot of fun classes, and I was just looking at the LCs for next semester, and I'm like, I wanna take that.
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?
Definitely being a mom and being in school. I'm a perfectionist, so, no matter what, I can never give 100 percent to my son or school. I have to split it. So that's been hard, cause I want to. I want to be the person who has the 4.0. I also want to be the mom that makes cupcakes for my kid, so that's been hard, definitely.
What's the most important thing you've learned at HCC?
That no matter what happens or where you come from you can always change your life with education. You can always start over.
Why is education important to you?
It totally changed my life. I think that education is the way out of so many issues for people. Access to eduation can really just change everything. For me it's changing everything. I was someone who thought that I was stupid and lazy and never going to amount to anything. Having an education has given me the opportunity to be whatever I want, like I can be a nurse, or I can be a ... you know, I have options.
What's been your proudest achievement at HCC?
I'm excited about Commencement. I've never graduated from anything before. Eighth grade is the last grade I technically finished.
What are your plans?
I'm going to Mount Holyoke College for my bachelor's degree in medical anthropology. Then I want to go get my nursing degree, them my master's in midwifery, then a PhD in medical anthropology. I would like to be a clinical midwife, to have the ability to attend patients clinically and attend births and do reproductive health. I really want to open and run community health clinics in the areaa, places where women can give birth, get birth control, counseling, where there are AA meetings, NA meetings, parenting classes, a really comprehensive resource for low-income communities and people who struggle with substance abuse issues. Hopefully I can piece that all together, and HCC reallly taught me that that is possible. I didn't have that dream coming in here. I've had the experiences in my life to know that those things are needed, like I've been the mom giving birth, I've been the person who needs help getting sober, but being here for the past three years really fine tuned that. I know exactly what I want to do.
PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: Jasmine Errico