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18-19 Impact Report Web Graphics12. Alumni Betts

After graduating from Grand Rapids Christian Schools, alumni go on to accomplish great things. Whether making their mark on the entertainment industry, building leaders and transforming communities, contributing to rain forest conservation, or using their athletic skills to inspire the next generation, the paths for GRCS alumni are as diverse as they are exciting. Catch up with these seven alumni who look back on how their experiences at GRCS prepared them to pursue their passions and explore God’s plan for their future.


Joel Betts

GRCHS Class of 2010

Associate Scientist for Mesoamerica, Global Wildlife Conservation

Favorite place:

The water or the woods

His favorite class at GRCHS:

Honors Biology with Ms. Kits. I appreciate the quality of work that Ms. Kits asked of us in biology class, as well as the great hands-on opportunities. 

What being a Fulbright scholar means for his career:

It gave me the opportunity to spend nearly all of 2018 in Central America conducting my master’s research. I care a lot about rainforest conservation and about streams and fish; it was awesome to have the chance to merge those interests with a meaningful project.

This opportunity also helped me to keep improving my Spanish language proficiency. It opened up the possibility of future work in Central America, like the projects I will be working on with Global Wildlife Conservation over the next few months.

What he’s researching now:

My main research project assessed the impact of illegal deforestation on the river resources of the forest reserves of Southeast Nicaragua.

In 2018, I spent 10 months in the field and lab in Nicaragua and Costa Rica working with local students and guides to gather data on the fish, insects, and shrimp that live in small streams, in primary rainforest areas, as well as in areas recently converted to cattle pasture. The Nicaraguan indigenous Rama and afrodescendent Kriol are concerned that the illegal deforestation for cattle pasture in their rain-forested territory is going to impact the health of their fisheries.

My goal was to provide hard evidence of these impacts so that they can use this evidence to strengthen their management and advocacy efforts.

What he wants for the next generation: 

I hope that our generation will not be the last to know the thousands of species of plants and animals that are on the brink of extinction. I hope that future generations will not look back to our time with regret as the time that we did not make the lifestyle and energy transitions we needed to make in order to keep climate change from irreversibly changing the world’s ecosystems.

I hope that in this increasingly connected multicultural world, people will do the hard work of listening to and learning from people who have a different upbringing and beliefs from them. I hope ultimately that people will work together to promote the mutual flourishing of all living things.

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