Meet Specialist Debra James


Debra is a Specialist with Kalamazoo RESA/Y.O.U through our partnership with Michigan Works! Southwest. She has been working with Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) out of school youth in Kalamazoo County for 8 years. Debra’s passion for her job and the youth she serves is evident in the success of her youth and the relationships she establishes with them.


Why did you become a JMG Specialist? JMG offered an opportunity to help the youth in our community with their educational and career goals

What inspires you about your job? Witnessing the positive transformation in young people.

Recall a favorite memory about being a specialist. The majority of my youth have dropped out of school. Reconnecting them with school, watching them work hard to complete secondary education and then attending their graduations is one of the many highlights of my job.

What is one of the greatest challenges you face in your job? Helping youth who struggle with addiction. There is almost nothing I can offer that can compete with their desire to use.

What is one of the greatest highlights/joys of your job? There are so many. Hearing from youth who have been out of the program for many years; not because they need something, but because they just want to stay in touch. It is always exciting when my youth are selected as JMG Alumni or Student Leader of the year.

Why do you think JMG is so important for youth? I think one of the most important aspects of JMG is instilling leadership skills in our youth. Once a person feels empowered, they can do anything!

Share your hobbies, do you have any pets, what do you like to do in your spare time? I love to read. I keep a little library in my office for youth to enjoy and I try to encourage them to do so. I have a dog named Scruffy,. I have 6 grandchildren. I have travelled quite a bit, especially during my 8 years in the US Air Force.