Meet The Team
Ashleigh Balistreri comes from Northern California where she spent her last summer guiding on the American River. She graduated from Humboldt State University, Arcata, California with a B.A. in Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Child Development and Environmental Education and a minor in Business Administration. Ashleigh gained a love for the outdoors as a child, growing up in Colorado and spending her summers camping, hiking, and fishing in the mountains. She enjoys spending her free time going on outdoor adventures with her dog, Sequoia. Much of her professional experience comes from working at a camp as a lifeguard, counselor, and program director. Ashleigh is excited to spend her fall season at the Outdoor Education Center!
Whitney Beaird is from Frog Jump, Tennessee! She graduated from Austin Peay State University Clarksville, Tennessee in 2013 with a B.A. in English and a double minor in African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies. She was a Resident Assistant for three years in two different halls and very active with the women’s rights group on campus. She worked as a summer Camp Director for three years. Froggy loves to travel and has studied abroad in Mexico. Her favorite colors are blue and yellow. She loves to read, cross stitch, cook, draw, and all things involving Alice in Wonderland. Froggy has worked at the OEC since the Fall of 2013 and has since risen to the rank of Senior Instructor and Pioneer Cabin Manager.
Evan Bentley started at the OEC in the fall of 2018. Born in Michigan, he attended Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Michigan. After graduating, he moved to California and worked at an outdoor education center. He then moved to Hawaii where he worked as a paraprofessional. Evan spends his summers in Raquette Lake, New York in the Adirondacks where he is the director of their water sports programs. When he is not working, he spends time playing with his dog Zeke.
Sean Henkenius is his name and Outdoor Recreation is his game. Sean comes out of Farmington, New Mexico where he has worked seasonally for the past 4 years. He has received his Bachelor Degree in Adventure Education from Prescott College, Prescott, Arizona in 2017. Sean spent three summers leading 2 week trail work/canoeing expeditions in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, Minnesota and Quetico Provincial Park! For the past 2 winters he has been leading cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog mushing expeditions. In his free time he enjoy disc golfing, paddling, and long walks on the portage trials. To say the least he is excited to be spending the fall here in Michigan and to meet everyone!
Kirstin Hoffman grew up in Battle Creek and attended Clear Lake Camp. She graduated from Level Park, Northwestern and Battle Creek Central High School. Go Bearcats! Kirstin studied Elementary Education at the University of Michigan and graduated in 2012. After teaching early elementary in Detroit for 4 years, Kirstin moved to Brazil to travel. Kirstin loves to swim, read and hang out with her family. Kirstin is excited about being an instructor at the OEC where she gained so much of her love of nature. Kirstin started working at the OEC in the fall of 2017.
Jonathan Kalmink grew up in Hastings, Michigan and went to Hastings High School. He graduated from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan in Spring 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Environmental Science. Jonathan loves outdoor activities especially fishing, hunting, and golf. He also loves gardening, landscaping, and getting his hands dirty since he was a little kid.
Paula Michels graduated from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2014 with a Bachelors of Science in Wildlife Information & Education. She has lived and worked in Wisconsin, Texas, and now Michigan. Paula worked in conservation education at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Glen Rose, Texas. Paula led school groups on adventures through the farm and nature preserve at Stratford Ecological Center, Delaware, Ohio. She adores animals of all kinds, especially wildlife. Paula enjoys hiking and visiting zoos.
Emily Perlman was born and raised in San Diego, California, where she lived in sunshine for 18 years. During college she worked for five summers at a Girl Scout Camp in the mountains outside of San Diego, where she grew her love for nature, team building, and dirt tans. Emily graduated from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in Women's and Gender Studies. She worked as an Americorps member for a year in Saint Paul as a Teen Tech Coordinator in an open teen tech lab helping youth learn 3D printing and photoshop skills. She decided to happily make her way farther east to Michigan to work at the Battle Creek Outdoor Education Center!
Gary Reynolds (ROV pilot / instructor) is married and enjoys camping, hiking, photography and working with young people. He is a Vietnam veteran who retired from the military after 26 years of service. While in the Air Force, Gary taught photography. Gary has been a Boy Scout leader for over 20 years. He worked for the State of Illinois for 35 years in Multi-Media.
Benjamin VanDyke began working at the Outdoor Education Center in the fall of 2018. He was born and raised in Michigan, and graduated from Cornerstone University of Grand Rapids, Michigan with a bachelor’s of science in Environmental Biology and a minor in History. Benjamin has a passion for ecology, zoology and inspiring natural resource conservation in youth. Prior to working at the OEC, Benjamin worked as the Camp Naturalist at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. In his off time, he enjoys hiking, reading, kayaking and being with his family.
Allysen Smith graduated from Battle Creek Central High School and the Battle Creek Area Math and Science Center in 2017. She spent a year at Western Michigan University, and is currently a student at Kellogg Community College. She came to this camp when she was a fifth and sixth grader, and her memories from those trips inspired her to work here. Allysen started working at the OEC in the spring of 2017.
Ben Smith is from Battle Creek, and is a graduate of Battle Creek Central. He spent a little bit of time at Michigan Tech before returning to coach Battle Creek Middle School Swimming and High School Water Polo. He works with multiple swim programs throughout the year, from Learn to Swim programs to College swim meets. Ben started working at the OEC as the lifeguard for the summer Bearcat Day Camp Program in 2017. Outside of work, you'll either find Ben in the lake fishing, swimming, kayaking or reading in a nice warm spot.
Judith McMillen is a wife, mother and grandmother. Her husband’s name is Dan and they have been married for 40 years. She enjoys camping, canoeing, quilting and reading. She is just “living the dream” working at the Outdoor Ed Center!
Kimberly Burandt Foster has been married to her husband Doug Foster for 20 years. Kim is the proud mother of 2 sons and a daughter. She has 5 amazing grandchildren Jayliana, Maliya, Kaliyah, Skyler, and Hailey. Kim enjoys golfing, swimming, living on a lake, and spending time with friends and family. Kim is proud to be part of the OEC and its awesome kitchen staff.
Candace McCrackin has two children Tyelor and Elizabeth and one granddaughter Kalaiah. Candy loves golfing with the Kim (other kitchen staffer) and Rocky, throwing large get togethers and cooking for friends and family. She has raised exotic and unique goldfish for over 30 years. She is also a Chicken enthusiast who has raised many different breeds. She just recently rescued her fourth Golden retriever Eli.