The Rapidian Home

Who's engaging the community?

As the new Community Engagement Specialist at The Rapidian, I thought you'd like to know a little bit about who I am, how I got here, and what it means for the Rapidian community.
Underwriting support from:

Come Say Hello

Our upcoming Rapidian Social will give you a chance to meet me, grill me with questions, and also find out more about The Rapidian in general. Come out and say hello!


Thursday, December 1st

4-6 p.m.

At Stella's Lounge

/Holly Bechiri

I was an arts junkie in high school. With the plays, musicals, choir, private voice lessons, and creative writing, I had found my place in the high school world. I felt pretty excited and fulfilled my freshman year. When sophomore year came around and I was trying to fill my schedule with more exciting things than gym or a science class, I stumbled upon The Lancer, the school newspaper. Once I became involved, my world dramatically changed. It wasn’t until then that I realized my writing could be more than poetry and short stories or how hard it was to report on news, when teachers didn’t respect you enough for interviews and most kids in the school didn’t end up even wanting to read it. All the same, something happened inside of me. That newspaper became my safe haven. I ended up working on every aspect of the newspaper production process and became editor-in-chief, putting hours of work into something I was passionate about and letting everything else fall by the wayside.

It was working on the newspaper that helped me see my future a little bit more clearly. Until The Lancer, I was hopelessly convinced that I was going to move to California to be a singer. My passions for the arts lead me to believe my world would always be nothing but performing. After The Lancer, I found a more realistic dream of spending my life writing, discovering, and maybe even inspiring. I started taking college classes my senior year of high school and was still figuring out what sort of major declaration made the most sense for me. I never had one career in mind, and I suppose I still don’t. I’ve known for a while that if I could live my life being involved with writing, reading, creating, and inspiring, then I’d find myself happy and fulfilled. I decided to major in English Language and Literature at Grand Valley State University. Even though I was still unsure of what my future would bring, I was still always frustrated with the continuous line of questioning I got from everyone else. It was always assumed that being an English major meant I wanted to be a teacher. When I told people I didn’t want to be a teacher, they didn’t know what else was out there for me. When my reply was, “I want to be happy. I want to read and write. I want to be involved with something bigger than myself. And, I just want to be happy,” it wasn’t good enough. Nonetheless, I kept pursuing my degree and loved every minute of it.

College graduation was creeping up on me and I still didn’t have any idea of how I was going to make my degree matter in Grand Rapids. I had gotten a job as a waitress my senior year of high school, and held that same job all the way through college. When the restaurant unexpectedly closed and I was nowhere near landing my dream job, I panicked. I had been living with the idea that if you work hard enough and with enough passion, the world falls into place around you. But there I was, dismissed from a waitressing job that paid my bills and living on unemployment that barely did. A friend of a friend randomly suggested I look into this thing called The Rapidian. I knew it wasn’t a paid position, but I thought I could at least do something I was passionate about while searching for a job, any job. I soon got swept up in a world that reignited my passion for writing. It had been years since I had reported on anything or written with the intent of being published. Pretty soon, though, I had seven stories to my name, including everything from a political spotlight to the Dantzler murders that rocked the community to the core and even a story about breastfeeding that was shared 72 times on Facebook. And for me, knowing that my work was reaching that many people was an unbelievably huge reward in and of itself. I even had the chance to talk on Catalyst Radio about my work. After a couple short months on the unemployment line, I got a job. It wasn’t in my field or something I would think to be a dream job, but beggars can’t be choosers, and I gladly accepted the opportunity to once again be an independent college graduate. A few months after that something happened that I never thought would: the once unknown “thing” called The Rapidian was considering me for a position.

When I got the job, my friends, family and anyone who knew anything about me were ecstatic. I had spent all of this time defending my choice to be an English major and my choice not to be a teacher. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a career goal that people could understand. All the while, I knew my passion for writing, and my hopes of being happy and maybe inspirational, would somehow work their way into my professional life. And then, before I knew it, everyone got it. Now, when I get to tell people what I do, they can see my entire face light up. They realize they just asked me a question that will take me a good 20 minutes to explain. My title is “Community Engagement Specialist” and I intend to engage my community. But, I also intend to work really hard at fostering the growth of people’s passions for writing and reading.  I plan to get more people reading The Rapidian, and more people writing for it. I have high hopes of breaking boundaries and creating a community of writers and readers that is not contingent on anything beside the common interest we have of Grand Rapids. Everyone has a voice, and I intend to get those voices heard.

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.


I (me! i know.) just really don't have the words to explain. Other than


and Thank you!

The Rapidian community is fortunate to have you in this role.

Thanks, Holly! You know I'm so excited to be here. So. Excited.