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Meet our March Specialist of the Month: Erin O’Rourke

Meet our Specialist of the Month winner for March, Erin O’Rourke, a Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) out-of-school specialist from Michigan Works! Northeast Consortium. Erin has been a JMG Specialist for 1.5 years and has already made an impact! We asked several questions so you can get to know her better: 

Why did you become a JMG Specialist?

I was introduced to JMG when taking over as the Youth Career Advisor for the WIOA program at MW! Northeast Consortium. I became a youth career advisor because when I left teaching, I still wanted to work to improve the lives of young people in my community.

What inspires you about your job?

Helping young people overcome their barriers to improve their lives is a major driving force for me. When I was teaching, I did not have much ability to assist my students with the challenges they were facing to complete their education. Now I have resources available to help the youth I work with to overcome barriers and succeed in their goals.

Recall a favorite memory about being a specialist. (an event, a youth accomplishment, etc.)

I had so much fun and learned so much at Summer Summit 2023 (Youth Solutions Professional Development Conference). It was a blast! I also was so excited for my participant who completed his first book and used money earned through participation in our programs to pay to have it published!

What is one of the greatest challenges you face in your job?

It can be difficult to stay calm and collected when hearing about the very difficult lives some of our youth have been through and what they have overcome on their journey to us. It is important to maintain our mental health as specialists to ensure we can continue giving each of our kids our best.

What is one of the greatest highlights/joys of your job?

I love being the person that our youth reach out to when they need help or just someone to talk to about their lives. Once a participant told me, "As soon as I realized I didn't have the money to help myself, I was like, 'I've got to call Erin.'" For many of us, the person we call when we are in trouble is a family member, maybe a parent, but many of my participants do not have a strong support system. I love being able to add myself to the list of people they trust to come to for assistance.

Why do you think JMG is so important for youth?

Youth today need support more than ever before. With the effects of the pandemic and the burden this placed on businesses and workers, many of our participants have not been given opportunities to work toward their future goals.

Share your hobbies, do you have any pets, what do you like to do in your spare time, etc.

I have one lovely spouse (newly married in February) and three crazy cats. In my spare time, I like to read fantasy books, watch anime, and spend time with family, especially spending time at my parents' pool in the summer. I love talking to my students about the new anime they are watching and swapping recommendations.

A couple random facts to get to know you better.

I graduated from Grand Valley State University (Anchor Up!) in 2018. I taught high school/middle school math and science for 4 years before becoming a specialist. According to my anime tracker, I have watched over 60 days of anime in the last 12 years.

Fun fact: 

One of my favorite facts is that sharks are older than trees and the rings of Saturn. Unless you meant a fun fact about myself; then a fun fact about myself is that I have 6 siblings!

Nominations are open to ALL, including our employer partners! If you know a phenomenal specialist, we encourage you to nominate them as our April Specialist of the Month.

Nominate a specialist who deserves to be recognized, here.


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