Putting people first
Justin was born and raised with his family in Lansing, Michigan where he attended Lansing Public Schools. From a young age, Justin learned the importance of strong access to healthcare and community resources as he experienced family members battling chronic illnesses. The empathy and skills he developed in family care sparked a life-long commitment to family health and wellness, beginning in high school when he provided respite care and mentorship for youth with disabilities.
While continuing to work in respite care and mental health services, Justin earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan. He continued on at the university to pursue his Master’s degree in Social Work, concentrating in interpersonal practice and community organizing. Intending to pursue a career in politics, Justin chose to focus these studies on learning about how social work practice could be used at a macro level, focused on larger social systems. While in graduate school, Justin worked with a team to create a program called Lansing SAVE that automatically enrolls students from his hometown in Lansing Public Schools in college savings accounts from the time they enter kindergarten.
After completing graduate school, he began working at the Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Counties as a clinical social worker serving a wide variety of patient populations. Justin saw firsthand the tremendous impact that policy has on patient care. This ignited a fire within him for advancing social and economic justice through policy. Justin pursued opportunities to make those changes in his community and was appointed by the East Lansing City Council to serve on the Human Relations Commission to investigate and mediate civil rights complaints within the city as well as advise the council on social policy. He was then selected to serve on the city’s Community Development Advisory Committee, which was tasked with selecting programs to receive funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.
Justin married his high school sweetheart and the two decided to settle down in Ypsilanti Township. Excited to return to the county of his alma mater, Justin continued working as a clinical social worker, but felt a calling to share his skills and interest in policy with aspiring social workers. He took a position at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and has made it his mission as an educator to help students understand the importance of policy and the need for people with a focus on promoting social justice to engage in politics. From local to federal government, Justin sees the dire need for leaders who truly understand the ways in which policies affect people’s lives and are willing to fight for change. Social workers can and should be in those roles and Justin wants to be on the forefront of training our students to be those leaders.
In recognition of his extensive knowledge of policy and skills in advocacy and community organizing, he was elected and currently serves as both the Chair of the Eastern Washtenaw Democratic Club and the Vice-Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. As a resident of the Charter Township of Ypsilanti, Justin also serves on the Sheriff’s Community Advisory Board for Law Enforcement where he brings a social justice perspective to the board. In these roles, Justin advocates for socially and economically just policies, but to make an even greater impact on the community he wants to bring his experience to the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.