BAY HARBOR – The Great Lakes Center for the Arts welcomed Dr. Rachel Sytsma-Reed as its Next Gen Program Coordinator following the retirement of Heather Russell.
Sytsma-Reed comes to the center with a wealth of experience and education along with a deep calling to make Northern Michigan a better place, officials said in a release announcing the appointment.
She has a Doctorate in Educational Psychology, with a specialization in Gifted and Talented Education. She has also obtained a Master of Science degree in Astrobiogeochemistry as well as a Master of Science in Secondary and Adult Science Education.
Her resume includes research and work for NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration, and the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. She also served as a gifted and talented program consultant and evaluator in two large school districts in the Grand Rapids area and was an associate professor at Calvin University. She recently served as a community educator at the Wellness Workshop, Munson Healthcare Charlevoix Hospital.
“I have many different kinds of experiences, and that’s not coincidental. I strongly believe that the more ways you can understand things, the better you understand things,” she said. “I think it’s important that we help model this for kids in the Next Gen program because when you can look at things in an interdisciplinary manner, your empowerment to make change grows.”
She mentioned how excited she gets about bringing people together over ideas. Next month, she will oversee and coordinate Next Gen’s first in-person school day matinee event since the beginning of 2020.
Next Gen will present Warriors Don’t Cry, a musical that centers around the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The experience will prompt discussion on social responsibility and civil discourse and includes accompanying lesson plans for educators to utilize.
“I feel like this is an opportunity to be part of something that is important and has value in the bigger picture. For me, this doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like a purpose,” Sytsma-Reed said.
Sytsma-Reed started the role in January. She lives in Charlevoix with her husband and daughters, who are members of the Center’s other educational initiative, the Dorothy Gerber Strings Program.