Chelsey Byers, a former Therapeutic Recreation major, is now a Family Life Educator for the University of Illinois Extension. Her specialty is in aging issues with a focus on brain health and Alzheimer’s/dementia.
Byers teaches non-credit programs in the community, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermillion counties. These programs include professional development and online training webinars that cover stress management, brain health, caregiving and retirement issues and parenting issues.
Byers favorite part of her job is teaching others about brain health and how to work out the brain.
“It’s fun when adults come in and still want to learn,” Byers said.
Byers worked as an Activity Therapist on the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Unit at the Illinois Veterans home in Manteno, IL for five years.
Byers also worked as a Professional Education Coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association in St. Louis for two years.
Byers attended Eastern from the fall of 1995 until the summer of 1999. While Byers attended Eastern, she was a member of the track team, an active member of Rec Club, and received the William G. Riordan Scholarship her senior year for her involvement in the department and academics. She was also asked to join Mortar Board for her achievement, leadership and service at Eastern.
Byers came back to Eastern for her Master’s degree in gerontology in 2003. Byers worked in the Student Life Office during that time and gained experience in event planning.
She also did a graduate assistantship for a semester in the gerontology department and worked with a professor on more gerontology based assignments.
Byers had such a great experience as an undergraduate and knew she wanted to come back to Eastern for her Master’s because it had a personal touch.
“During both my undergraduate and my master’s program, I would say that all my professors and advisors were so invested in the students,” Byers said. “They really wanted to see you grow as a person.”
The professors gave students opportunities to do different things. They also encouraged her to do diverse activities and take classes that she normally wouldn’t take.
Byers goal when she came into the department was to work with kids. But an advisor urged her to take a class geared towards seniors.
“In my 19-year-old head I was like ‘I’m not going to work with old people!’” Byers said. “Who knew that after an internship my eyes would be opened?”
Byers recommends trying new things and developing yourself professionally.
For the past four years, Byers has been on the Eastern Alumni Association Board as way to give back for her great time at EIU.