Skip to Top NavigationSkip to ContentSkip to Footer
Ferris State University BulldogFerris State University Logo

December 18, 2023

Teacher, mom, and new graduate Grace Szymchack – with newborn Annabelle – celebrate a Ferris State degree

Grace Szymchack and her newborn at commencement ceremonies on the campus of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. – Grace Szymchack had it all planned: Ferris State University commencement ceremony on Friday, Dec. 15, and a scheduled C-section today.

But her baby had other plans.

“Annabelle decided to come early on Dec. 6,” Szymchack said. “But I’d worked hard for this degree, and I was determined to walk with the rest of my class … so I just brought her to graduation with me.”

With the 10-day-old infant tucked into her graduation gown, Szymchack received her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, magna cum laude, as her husband, Caleb, and the rest of her family cheered her on.

Ferris State conferred degrees to more than 400 students on Friday at the Fall 2023 commencement in Big Rapids. For 24-year-old Szymchack, the ceremony was the culmination of six years of balancing classes, work, marriage, and motherhood.

Born and raised in Traverse City, Szymchack always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

While earning an associate degree in early childhood development at Northwestern Michigan College, she worked for the Great Start Readiness Program and now teaches full-time in a Strong Beginnings program, a Munson Healthcare public preschool for 3-year-olds.

In 2019, she enrolled and began attending classes at the Ferris State Student Success Hub in Traverse City at Northwestern Michigan College. It was a perfect fit for Szymchack — especially after she and her husband had their first daughter, Isabelle, in 2022.

The Student Success Hub is one of five sites around the Michigan that Ferris State is planning to provide academics and support services to students of all ages who are unable to reach the main campus in Big Rapids. Other sites are in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Flint, and Detroit.

“I had quite a few classes there when I started, but then COVID hit and all of a sudden they were all completely online,” she said. “I definitely found that more manageable because then I could take classes at home and also take care of my daughter.”

The Ferris State education Szymchack received is already serving her — and her students — well.

“My professors were really great about making our learning based on what I was actually doing in the classroom,” she said. “I was able to take the lesson from the day before and apply it straight to my kiddos.”

Now that she’s attained her bachelor’s degree, Szymchack is looking forward to a long career in education.

“I love working with the littles the best … I feel like I can really make an impact there,” she said.

This story was reported by Beth McKenna for Ferris State University