Photo courtesy Allie Jordan
As part of a dynamic team that brings a holistic approach to workforce development, Jackson resident Devin Winsett has served as a social worker with the Refill Jackson Initiative since June 2021. Previously, he worked with Refill as a Jackson State University social-work intern beginning in 2019 while studying social work in college.
The Refill Jackson Initiative (136 S. Adams St.) is a nonprofit group that opened in downtown Jackson in 2019 and works with young adults aged 18 to 24 who are not currently working or in school.
The nonprofit offers an eight-week training program, half of which participants spend in classrooms on the building's second floor developing workplace skills such as resume building, interview skills, professional dress, financial management, anger management, answering phones, sending emails, presenting oneself, filling job applications, and maintaining personal health and well-being. Participants spend the other half of their time performing on-the-job training with supervision at off-campus sites that work with Refill.
As a social worker for Refill, Winsett's duties include helping young people overcome external barriers they may face, such as food or housing insecurity, as well as helping people gain access to mental-health or other services they may need to overcome challenges in their lives. He also teaches a financial-education course that covers bank-account management and saving, and he helps participants prepare for the National Career Readiness Assessment exam. Other instructors teach courses in other areas and disciplines.
"What I most enjoy about my work with Refill is being able to take a unique approach to social service through the lens of workforce development," Winsett says. "The approach is deeply client and goal-focused and allows me to work personally with others to address the barriers they face and help them become independent and empowered."
Born in Pascagoula, Miss., Winsett graduated from East Central High School in Moss Point, Miss., before enrolling at Millsaps College. He received a bachelor's degree in sociology in 2016, after which he spent a year teaching English as a second language in Mexico. Winsett then spent a year working with Americorp in New Orleans, La., teaching 7th- and 8th-grade math before taking a position as a case-management worker in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he worked with young adults in a group home.
"Working as a teacher in New Orleans is what gave me my first inclination toward social work," Winsett says. "Working with the young people there, I started wanting to be able to help them with the problems they faced outside of the classroom, either at home or with local or systemic challenges they might be facing. I wanted to start working one-one-one with people and building a strong rapport with them."
Enrolling at Jackson State University in 2019, Winsett earned a master's degree in social work in 2021. While at JSU, he began a social-work internship with Refill Jackson. The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily forced the program to cease operations, but Winsett was able to return to the program later that year as an instructor to help the nonprofit adapt to changes the pandemic necessitated, such as class-size adjustments and dividing up students into two separate cohorts to limit health risks.
In addition to his duties with Refill Cafe, Winsett has also been working as an adjunct professor of sociology at Millsaps College since August 2021.
Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 who are interested in the Refill Jackson Initiative program can apply at refilljackson.org/apply.