Jaquan Grier has a way about him that puts other at ease—perhaps that’s why, after only a short time at Mercy Home, it feels like he’s been working here forever.

Jaquan, a career resources and post-secondary options coordinator, has been familiar with Mercy Home since his childhood, when a classmate came to Mercy Home.

“I just think he really benefited from here,” he said. “There was definitely a really good change in his mood and just his overall affect. I really appreciated it, even as a kid, and I’ve always been really passionate about social justice, even when I was a kid. So I just kind of kept up with Mercy Home.”

When Jaquan finished college—he studied sociology at St. Norbert College and also ran track there—he decided to see if Mercy Home had any internships or jobs available. In 2017, he joined the Education and Career Resources (ECR) team as an Academy assistant, where he worked on our summer enrichment programs with the younger boys. It was during this time that he heard about the MercyWorks program from MercyWorks Coordinator Kevin Felisme and decided to apply. He was accepted and began his year of service in 2018.

“MercyWorks is, I would have to say, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “I truly mean that because [while] it is really hard to live with 12 other people, I think it really matures you in ways that you don’t even expect.

“Just the overall consistency and the vulnerability and just realness that I think it provides you with, I think it’s something special that you just can’t [replicate]. I have nothing but love for all of my community members that I lived with for over a year. They know me as well as probably some of my own family members. That’s just a lifetime bond that you won’t find anywhere else.”

As a member of the ECR team, Jaquan finds resources both at Mercy Home and out in the community for our kids to utilize, such as after-school programming, jobs, or tutoring. He also teaches job skills classes, which he said is one of his favorite parts of the job. He teaches our 14- to17-year-old boys important skills like timeliness, scheduling, and other skills they need to get and keep a job. And if that weren’t enough, he also coordinates job visits and college tours for our kids, in addition to helping them with applying for financial aid and working on college essays.

After completing his MercyWorks year, the decision to stay on at Mercy Home was an easy one for Jaquan.

“I’m super loyal,” he explained. “I think Mercy Home, it’s not only a great place for staff to work and youth to be at, I think it’s [also] a great place to grow professionally. And it’s a place where I can really see myself spending a good portion of my career at.”

“And not only that, but probably the main important thing is to be able to relationship build with the youth. And if they keep seeing people come in and go, that doesn’t help us. So I just want to consistently be a positive role model figure for the youth to look up to.”

“I’m super loyal. I think Mercy Home, it’s not only a great place for staff to work and youth to be at, I think it’s [also] a great place to grow professionally. And it’s a place where I can really see myself spending a good portion of my career at.”

In addition to helping our kids with career resources and post-secondary options, Jaquan also coached Mercy Home’s Illinois Inter-Agency Association basketball team. Though he said much of it was a learning experience for him—“I don’t have much experience coaching,” he explained—he had a great team working with both the other coaches and the boys.

Eric [Anthony], Justin [Earls], Eddie [Meredith], I just want to give a shout out to those guys because they definitely know a lot more than me. … I had just as much fun learning from them and teaching the kids and I think just when you have that relationship with your coworkers and fellow coaches and the youth, it makes it a really, really fun experience.”

And at the end of the day, it’s the relationships that Jaquan has built at Mercy Home that mean the most to him.

“My favorite part about working at Mercy Home is building relationships with the youth,” he said. “I will say that every time just because I don’t think there’s anything more important than that.”

He explained that something he especially appreciates about his job is that it allows the kids to see him both in program and also when he’s working in his office.

“I just love that the kids [can] see someone in a different light,” he said. “There’s youth care workers, therapists, program managers, people who are in the home with them pretty much deserve all the credit because they’re there 24 hours out of the day caring for them and watching for them … but I just think in my role it’s great because while I’m not always in the home, they can come and find me in my office doing work. They can come and set up meetings with me. They can have conversations with me to talk about their personal life and we can sit down and work on job applications, resumes, like actual work is getting done. But then also turning around and being able to say like, hey, I can come in program and play 2K and do some of the fun things you are doing in the milieu … I just think being able to relationship build with them in that manner provides a whole new light. Like, hey, you can work hard but also play hard.”

“My favorite part about working at Mercy Home is building relationships with the youth. I will say that every time just because I don’t think there’s anything more important than that.”

Jaquan added that another highlight of working at Mercy Home is his relationship with his supervisor, Director of Post-Secondary Options Katelyn Dollard and Vice President of Education and Career Resources Liz Kuhn Tomka.

“They’ve been super supportive of everything that I’ve wanted to do and any changes that I’ve wanted to make, mistakes that I might’ve made, they were really great about giving me feedback, especially with Katelyn because she works with me day to day to day,” he said. And I just can’t thank her enough for all the time and hard work she puts into our team, our department, and just helping [us] grow individually and professionally.”

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