We recently had the privilege of sitting down with Justin White, an AWARE Trainer whose unique journey and perspective bring a fresh outlook to the realm of professional development and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) within AWARE.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Justin has traversed a winding path before finding his home at AWARE over the past two years. His intriguing backstory includes stints as an entertainer on a cruise ship, life in the scenic landscapes of Alaska, and a period in Big Sky, Montana, where he humorously labels himself a "dirtbag." He has also served as a university recreation coordinator and contributed to the Anaconda Job Corps. With such a diverse range of experiences, Justin is well-versed in connecting with individuals from all walks of life.
Justin's current role as a trainer at AWARE has given him a distinct perspective, enabling him to engage with employees from various communities and service lines. This interaction has greatly influenced his thoughts on DEI.
Justin succinctly states, "People are different, and that's okay." His words underscore the simple premise that inclusivity is all about embracing diversity. As a trainer, he regularly collaborates with individuals from diverse backgrounds and adapts to their unique learning styles. His own diverse background further reinforces the importance of his wisdom, which can be embraced by everyone.
Justin emphasizes that one of the fundamental components of DEI is “change.” While acknowledging the challenge it presents, he firmly believes that accepting change leads to great outcomes. In his time at AWARE, he has witnessed a noticeable shift in people's openness to change and collaboration. He attributes this to the inherent openness of AWARE as an agency, shaped by the nature of human services and the work involved. The evolution, he notes, is marked by the development of a more formal language around DEI and dedicated efforts to improve it.
Justin’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of embracing diversity and change, both personally and within the AWARE community. His words resonate as a reminder that "different" is not just okay; it's the catalyst for progress, understanding and ultimately, excellence.
Justin, thank you for embracing change and being open to meet people where they are. Your efforts to advance our mission of helping people live independent lives are making a difference, and it’s inspiring to say the least!
While visiting with Justin, we also took the opportunity to delve into the more personal aspects of Justin's experiences at AWARE. Here's what he had to share:
Q: What’s the most fulfilling thing you’ve experienced in your position?
A: "Watching staff perspectives shift after going through training. I was teaching HELP and got to see first-hand a staff member relate to using holds as a last resort. The staff said they were raised through foster placements and had experienced holds numerous times as a first resort. It was refreshing to see this person view holds under a new light and want to share that perspective with others."
Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen?
A: "Watching a staff member chill out with clients while playing the cello was really neat and relaxing. We have a lot of people doing great things across the organization."