Meet our Specialist of the Month winner for March, Jim Benton, an Out-of-School Specialist, from Michigan Works! Southwest Kalamazoo County. Jim has been a Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) Specialist for eleven months and has made a difference in the lives of the youth he serves. We asked several questions so you can get to know him better:
Why did you become a JMG Specialist?
Working with youth who experience adversity has been my calling since I was young. Before starting as a JMG Specialist, I’ve served as a school counselor in many different settings, a youth grief counselor, and a job placement specialist for youth with disabilities. This particular position affords me the opportunity to impact young people with all sorts of barriers to career fulfillment, which is a wonderful perk to the job!
What inspires you about your job?
The young people I work with every day. Seeing them pick themselves up off the mat and accomplish great things is beyond inspiring.
Recall a favorite memory about being a specialist. (an event, a youth accomplishment, etc.)
Definitely our youth coming together at the Career Development Conference (CDC) 2022 and making a run through the JMG Bowl! We lost a heartbreaker in the finals but seeing our youth demonstrate their mastery of career development knowledge was a thrill.
What is one of the greatest challenges you face in your job?
The toughest part is having to watch our youth head out the door to situations they’d rather not be in. It’s sobering to know that the young people we serve aren’t always excited to go home at the end of the day, even if I am. It’s an important, albeit deflating, fact to remember.
What is one of the greatest highlights/joys of your job?
The best is when I get to laugh with our participants. I’m a bit older now so my quirky personality and sense of humor is an acquired taste for the youth of 2023. Once a trusting relationship is built with a young person, sharing moments of levity and laughter is wonderful. Our youth are just fun to be around; when we can laugh together it’s the ultimate sign that they are comfortable in their environment.
Why do you think JMG is so important for youth?
The activities and events that set JMG apart from other programs are the leadership building opportunities. The programs and events are hands-on, real experiences. JMG enrollees are not reading or hearing about how to be a leader; they’re living it.
Share your hobbies, do you have any pets, what do you like to do in your spare time, etc.
I compete in triathlons and run endurance races, but I’ve lost some speed as I’ve gotten older. I exercise often but always utilize group exercise (I love the comradery!) I also really enjoy watching sports, especially college sports. I’m a Michigan State alum and can return to campus regularly to attend events. I also love watching my kids perform and compete in their activities. I’m a bit let down if the weekend arrives and my kiddos don’t have any games or performances to attend.
I have an 8-month-old Labrador Retriever named Joey Buckets. He’s quite the ball of energy.
A couple random facts to get to know you better.
I’m happily married with 2 kids; a 9 year old daughter named Gabby and a 7 year old son named Camden.
I am passionate about community building. When I’m not working with youth or engaging in one of my hobbies, I’m likely attending community events and meeting as many people as possible. The benefits of networking never, ever end. I’ll be networking with others for the rest of my days.
While I consider myself a dedicated Michigander, my family hails from the east coast. My son, Camden, is named after my father’s city of birth in New Jersey.
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.