our staff

MJ

Mary Jo Schnell
Executive Director

Mary Jo Schnell leverages 30 years of professional experience in the nonprofit sector, having worked in a diversity of roles, and for a variety of mission-based organizations. During her tenure, she has provided consulting services to the governing Board, led the organization’s 1st three-year plan, almost tripled the level of support, as well as nurtured new strategic partners in systems change initiatives, retooled programs with the priority on serving LGBTQ+ at-risk youth, and created system-wide change initiatives based on education and strong organizational partnerships.

Gerik

Gerik Nasstrom
Program Coordinator

Gerik Nasstrom (He/They) is a Benton Harbor native with over five years experience working with nonprofit organizations. Growing up in a conservative faith community left him with an undeveloped understanding of both broader LGBTQ+ issues and his own queer identity. After years of deconstructing, education, and self reflection he refocused his efforts on progressive advocacy and outreach to those who are in communities like the one that he was raised in. His goal is to continue the amazing work of the OutCenter while expanding its reach, developing new programs, and promoting community in a post-Covid world.

Heather

Heather Gardewine
Program Facilitator

Heather Gardewine (she/her) moved to Michigan in August of 2021 and looks forward to making her new home an even better place for LGBTQ+ community. She recently graduated with an MA in creative writing from Eastern Illinois University, and she hopes to continue writing and publishing stories from queer perspectives. Nonprofits have always been an area of interest for her, and her own experience in the LGBTQ+ community has inspired her to be a part of making things better for the next generation through advocacy.

Jordanne Howell-Watson
Counseling Intern

Jordanne Howell-Walton (she/her) was born and raised in Massachusetts. Following her high school experience, Jordanne pursued a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and minor in Spanish at Andrews University. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Jordanne lived in Argentina to learn the Spanish language. Prior to beginning her Master’s program, Jordanne worked in the education system both as a teacher and as an Assistant Dean of Women, where her love for working with young people became incredibly apparent. Currently, Jordanne is pursuing her Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Andrews University. When it comes to counseling, Jordanne’s goal is to create a safe space for the individual to be authentically themselves. The hope is that the safe space that is created in therapy can be a safe space they carry with them always.

Kira

Kira Bucksbaum
Communication Coordinator

Kira Bucksbaum (she/her) is a filmmaker from metro Detroit. She majored in Media and Information at Michigan State University with a concentration in TV, Cinema and Radio, and has since explored all genres of filmmaking from fiction, to commercial, to documentary. While social activism has always been a part of her life, she’s thrilled to have found a way to make fighting for equality a part of her professional work. She hopes to continue contributing to the LGBTQ+ community through compassionate and creative storytelling, and helping to build an inclusive and accepting community in the Southwest Michigan area.

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