Hunter Daniels is a force of nature when it comes to determination and positivity, and he recently was recognized for using his newfound skills to make a difference in others’ lives.
Daniels, 21, moved to Twin Lake from his hometown of Cedar Springs in 2019 after an unsuccessful first year in college at Central Michigan University. Left with a mountain of student debt and no job, Daniels was referred to West Michigan Works! by family. Upon connecting with Amanda DeCaire, a Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates career coach, Daniels received supportive services to resolve transportation issues and develop employability skills.
He said he learned from DeCaire about his strengths and weaknesses, how to develop a resume and how to present himself professionally to hiring managers, and after receiving that and other career and soft skills coaching, he gained enough confidence to land a job in the produce department at Meijer. While employed at Meijer, Daniels continued taking advantage of every West Michigan Works! leadership development opportunity available. He participated in workshops, talent tours and community service projects, and he continued to meet with DeCaire on everything from social skills to budgeting.
Daniels said he has always had a passion for helping people and initially thought he would channel it into teaching, but his experience at CMU convinced him the classroom wasn’t the right fit for him. West Michigan Works! helped him discover a range of other opportunities in the health care field.
After receiving a West Michigan Works! Individual Training Account (ITA) scholarship to attend Muskegon Community College, Daniels earned a certified nursing assistant (CNA) certificate, graduating as valedictorian of his CNA class after the three-month program.
Upon graduation, Daniels got a job with the Muskegon-based senior care skilled nursing facility Sanctuary at McAuley, a division of Trinity Health/Mercy Health. Daniels helped Sanctuary at McAuley fill a critical need for CNAs during the pandemic, while the employment, training and leadership skills he gained from West Michigan Works! continue to have a tremendous impact on his life, he said.
“I was able to grow as a person, and it was kind of phenomenal. Amanda always says, ‘Give credit where credit is due — you have grown so much, and it’s not because of me. It is because you wanted to, and you tried, and you worked hard and showed up every single day,’” Daniels said.
He added: “Michigan Works! doesn’t only help you gain employability; they help you build yourself to be a better person each day and be able to prepare yourself for life in the real world and be able to face adversity and conflict and know how to get through it. … It’s just amazing what they did for me. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t even know where I would be.”
Daniels continued to work for Meijer and Sanctuary at McAuley until February, and now he works solely for the latter.
Because of his service as a grocery store and health care front-line worker during the pandemic, Daniels received a Futures for Frontliners Scholarship, which he is using at Muskegon Community College to earn his licensed practical nurse (LPN) credential before eventually transferring to either Grand Valley State University or Michigan State University to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing to become a registered nurse (RN). He said he doesn’t yet know what nursing specialty he will choose, but as of now, he would be interested in channeling his “positivity and high energy” into clinical areas such as rehabilitation, skilled nursing or emergency medicine.
At the Michigan Works! Association Impact Awards on March 31, Daniels was recognized with an award for his hard work and determination. West Michigan Works! also received an award for aiding front-line workers with the training needed to be successful in high-demand career fields.
The Michigan Works! Association is a nonprofit membership organization that provides services and support to Michigan’s talent ecosystem. For over 30 years, the association has been a resource for federal, state and local workforce initiatives. The association’s Impact Awards recognize the economic development successes being achieved in communities across Michigan.
During the event, local lawmakers presented tributes to dozens of honorees from across the state. Award winners included employers, workers, Michigan Works! organizations and partners from across the state.
“The dedication West Michigan Works! has for helping our residents overcome significant barriers makes them a huge asset to our community,” said state Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo.
“Certified nursing assistants are in high demand across our state,” said state Rep. Terry Sabo, D-Laketon Township. “The CNA program offered through Muskegon Community College, coupled with the ITA scholarship offered by West Michigan Works!, not only helps get individuals working quickly, but also puts them on a path to a career opportunity in health care.”
State Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, R-Norton Shores, commended Daniels for his hard work.
“Congratulations to Hunter on winning this prestigious award,” VanWoerkom said. “Hunter’s dedication and pursuit of a career to create a better life for him and others is an inspiring story. He used the resources available to him through West Michigan Works! and now has a rewarding careering in front of him.”
Daniels said he is proud to be self-sufficient and career-bound after a whirlwind two years.
“I am confident in myself and my future because of Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates,” he said. “I was a kid with a dream; now I am a kid with a plan.”