Alumnus Benz Guillermo finds the right fit in human services

Portrait of Benz Guillermo working at Covenant House AlaskaGrowing up in the Philippines, Benz Guillermo was no stranger to witnessing the hardships people face in life. It was where he developed a great passion to help those who are in need or in vulnerable situations. Initially, Benz declared pre-nursing as his major, then physical therapy, before he found the right fit for him: human services.

"All of the majors I intended to pursue revolve around serving the needs of the human population. … I pursued a degree in human services because I did feel it is a degree that many people underestimate," Benz says. "I believe that the need for human services professionals nowadays should be high as there are so many social issues that need critical attention and support; not just in the State of Alaska or the whole United States, but globally as well."

A new understanding

As he first entered the human services field, Benz quickly learned about the social problems that are prevalent within the State of Alaska. However, it was through his practicum with Covenant House Alaska (CHA) that he gained a new understanding of the different situations each person faces, which led him to taking interest in serving the homeless and at-risk youth.

"I do want to say that it could be a stressful environment, but the positive changes that you see within an individual as they progress … is the rewarding part of the job," Benz says. "I really admire Covenant House Alaska for their respect toward the staff and for giving them many opportunities to learn and grow in the field."

After graduating with his AAS in Human Services in Fall 2020, Benz was hired to work full time as a youth engagement specialist (YES) staff member with the Engagement Center Program at CHA. Within a couple of months, he became the YES lead apprentice, and he has since transitioned to his current position as the YES lead supervisor.

Portrait of Benz GuillermoChoosing his practicum placement

So how exactly did Benz come about choosing CHA for his practicum? It actually was through the recommendation of his practicum advisor. He expressed his interest in working with the homeless population, especially after personally witnessing it when he first moved to Anchorage.

"I do want to give a big shout out to Professor Seta Kabranian for recommending Covenant House … as I had no concrete idea on where to obtain my practicum hours," Benz says. "Additionally, she acted as one of my direct supervisors (during my practicum) whom I reported to every week, and I was able to gain insight and feedback on how to handle specific and different situations."

A positive atmosphere

A big component to why he enjoyed his time at CHA, Benz says, was the positive atmosphere that revolved around staff and how they operate as a team where opinions, input, and concerns were highly valued. Because of that, he was comfortable asking questions to get familiar with his new role.

"My overall experience with my practicum at CHA went smoothly. I really enjoyed building endless relationships with the youth ... as well as building relationships with the staff," Benz says. "I really felt like I was part of the team, even when I was just a practicum student. Indeed, there might have been times where I was put in a situation that real staff should be in, but that gave me the advantage to learn more about the work and to challenge myself by working independently in several occasions."