The Rapidian

Community engagement: Empowering our citizens, encouraging local involvement

I've brought my passion for community and my drive for making an impact into my new role as The Rapidian's Community Engagement Specialist.

Let's connect!

Questions? Concerns?

Feel free to connect with me via:


Phone: 616-459-4788 x 124

In person: 1111 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

I played Nurse Warren in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"

I played Nurse Warren in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" /Brad Lampe

Local Street Team member Calvin Webb and I enjoying Local First's 2nd Annual Fork Fest

Local Street Team member Calvin Webb and I enjoying Local First's 2nd Annual Fork Fest /Tiberius Images

“Describe yourself in three words.”

After what felt like a million seconds had gone by, I managed to put together these three little words: driven, communal and passionate. It was with those three little words that I somehow got to where I am today.

I’ve always known I would work with people. I like people, people like me: it works.

My love for invoking passion in others came when I was in 7th grade and cast in my first off-Broadway musical "Guys and Dolls" at Creekside Middle School in Zeeland, Michigan. Okay, so this wasn’t Broadway and it certainly wasn’t even off-Broadway. But the way the stage and the engagement with an audience made me feel was more than I could put into words. I felt alive and I knew this was it for me.

I continued developing my inner thespian into my high school years. I remember spending hours and hours memorizing dance steps and scenes. The place and the people became my second home and my second family. We saw each other at our weakest and proudest moments.

This was the first time I experienced a true sense of community with people outside of my home. We were all working towards a common goal and we did all we could individually to ensure it would benefit those around us. It didn’t matter where someone came from or how they liked to dress. We loved and hated each other all in the same day, but in the end we knew we were in it together.

This ideology remains with me to this day. So much so that I often find myself chatting with strangers in public places or even having a heart-to-heart with a fellow patron on The Rapid. Regardless of the situation, it’s the rich sense of community and tapping into a common ground that makes me feel alive.

I first heard about The Rapidian in the fall of 2011 when Chelsea Scally came to my English- Writing for Publication class. She talked about citizen journalism: this idea where the members of the community report and publish what they find important. My interest suddenly started to change from class assignment to realizing I could actually make a difference. It was with that community-focused passion I began to get involved.

And the rest is history. Kind of.

Shortly after writing my first piece, I began writing more. I started to attend local events, volunteering and really digging deep into what being a part of the Grand Rapids community looked like. In May of 2013, my now-boss (in both senses of the word) Holly Bechiri recruited me to be a part of The Rapidian's Story Matters Street Team. The Story Matters project was attractive to my passion for conversation and spending time with people. I strongly believe everyone has a story and it is worth sharing. From this common team belief, Story Matters took off and launched during ArtPrize 2013. I’ve never had a busier fall season than what I experienced during those two weeks. Running here, running there; forgetting to eat lunch and sometimes dinner all for the sheer enthusiasm and stories I was able to relive with my fellow Grand Rapidians.

In late October, I was offered the position as Community Engagement Specialist with The Rapidian and without hesitation, I gladly accepted. Since my personal commitment to become a strong community activist last year, I have had the good fortune of meeting and working alongside a lot of really amazing individuals. These people continue to motivate me to be a better person and I will strive to do the same for others. I take the engagement part of my title very seriously. I strongly believe a community that is engaged with one another and openly communicates is a strong one. Through the Rapidian platform, we as citizens of Grand Rapids can engage with one another and discuss the issues we feel are most important to us, rather than being told what we should care about. As your Community Engagement Specialist, I will make it my responsibility to ensure everyone I come in contact with has a positive image of The Rapidian and, overall, Grand Rapids.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.


Chelsie, it's been wonderful serving on The Rapidian Street Team with you and our colleagues.  I've witnessed your continued growth during this time, and have full confidence you will represent and serve the greater Grand Rapids area well.  GRCMC is fortunate to have you, and you're among some well respected and talented individuals.  It's great that you recognize this and don't take any part of it for granted.  Best to you, CW.