An Iconoclastic Education
Senior Amanda Elder has always sought out the creative learning opportunity, the chance to follow her own muse. The Rochester, Michigan native calls it “a really unique education all through my life.”
Amanda grew up with three sisters in a rich, imaginative family, tied together by the loose dreams of a fanciful father and the steadfastness of a patient mother. “My mother is the strongest person I know. My father’s insane. He always told me I could do anything I want,” she says.
She took this to heart, helping friends and local teachers create a non-profit, independent high school. They designed their own coursework and spent a month and a half of every school year traveling. “That’s where my passion for travel was ignited,” she says, segueing into a description of six months spent in Brazil studying conservation biology and environmental management.
Amanda chose Antioch College and its liberal programs of study. When the college closed its doors she was forced to transfer, and eco-league school Green Mountain College was a great fit. The progressive program has allowed Amanda to continue shaping her own course, self-designing a major curriculum around communications, sustainability and social justice, saying, “Being in charge of my own education is really important to me.”
Amanda has been playing school since before she can remember. “Everyone around me told me I’d become a teacher,” she says. She started a dance school to pay for her high school, started a nature art education program at the Glen Helen preserve at Antioch, and taught life skills at a homeless youth shelter in Portland, Oregon. At GMC she has concentrated her efforts on media communications and non-profit management, saying, “College has been thus far more of a narrowing down. I’ve been too passionate about too many things.” As she nears the end of her undergraduate career, she plans a trip to Nicaragua and sees herself applying her skills to sustainable development projects.
“I don’t want a career,” she says. “I don’t want to do anything for very long. I want to continue to grow.”
By Ryan Dixon '11