30ca7bcc-22a0-11e4-b631-12313b024af0-largeAs an alumni of Virginia Tech (Class of 2012 & 2014), I always say I am grateful to have a day job and a passion job. I work as a program analyst and project manager, serving the country through my day job for the federal government. I look forward to and am grateful for the opportunity to serve the American people through the Department of Homeland Security on a daily basis. This job pays the bills, has developed me limitlessly, and I am blessed with a mentor who is focused on my professional development and working my way up through the workforce. I couldn’t be happier with my day job.

I also work as Founder and Owner of this here little blog, web presence, and motivational speaking endeavor.  Most of time through these duties is spent speaking and volunteering.  I realized during graduate school that, when people would ask “what’s your dream job?“, my gut answer to that question was always the same: to travel the world and connect with people as an embodiment of social engagement, inclusion, development, and motivation.  I’ve spent much time the past few years working to gain more traction on that front by scaling the notoriety of the HESONWHEELS brand as a vehicle for service, engagement, authentic connections, leadership, and inclusion.

View Justin Graves's profile on LinkedIn
My professional goals include working for a service-oriented organization in areas of team development, leadership development, and community service.  Along with my LinkedIn (above), you can also view my RÉSUMÉ to see that I also have extensive and diverse experiences in higher education/student affairs, recruiting, non-profit management, project management, federal government, corporate relationship building, large & small public presentations, administration, social entrepreneurship, event planning, state & local government policy, university admissions, counseling, and K-12 education, just to name some of the areas I’ve worked in and grew passionate for.

I am extremely passionate about closing the achievement gap for students who want to gain an education. Whether it’s a special needs student in K-12 whose parents are told that they will never be able to learn in a “mainstream” classroom or if it is a first-generation college student who may not have the funds to pay for college, I firmly believe in the notion of “Challenge & Support” when working with others to help them realize their goals. I work, daily, to mentor, encourage, and support students toward realizing their goals because a world where people, especially youth, can realize their goals is a world with more engaged, passionate, and personally successful and happy people.  Who doesn’t want that?!

On that note, I believe that a person’s occupation should, in some way, relate to their passion.  After all, you spend most of your waking hours at work, so why not do something that you love?  I am determined to, truly, never have to “work” a day in my life; that is, even if I have a bad day, I can go to work the next day happy because I have earned the opportunity to do what I love, no matter the struggle.  I am excited about making long-standing, apparent social impacts while working directly with and connecting with people. I am proud to say that I do that now, and I look forward to continuing being able to do that.

Photo credit to Cameron Sumpter.
Connecting with local entrepreneurial colleagues at the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s (RBTC) TechNite Awards Gala. Photo credit: Cameron Sumpter.

All of that being said, my most rewarding life-experience, transcending personal and/or professional limitations, was my time spent as a Hokie Ambassador (click the link to see a news video, by WSLS 10 reporter Dawn Jeffries, about my ‘unique’ campus tours that helped me fulfill my one person each day goal when I was in college).  It is thanks to this organization, the people I worked with, and the people I met that I developed the ethos outlined above.  I owe so much of the person that I’ve become to this organization.

Delivering my final campus tour as a Hokie Ambassador (campus tour guide) in the spring of 2014.

My most rewarding experience in life thus far has been the opportunity to be recognized by and to connect with the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama for my 1 person each day goal and how that has affected my journey as a young professional in higher education.  You can learn more about that mesmerizing experience by listening to this audio clip.

Speaking with First Lady of the United States Mrs. Michelle Obama about the importance of access to higher education in today's economy.
Speaking with First Lady of the United States Mrs. Michelle Obama about the importance of access to higher education in today’s economy.

I believe in and intentionally practice a firm commitment to civic service, involvement and engagement by making trips, almost monthly, to Richmond and/or Washington D.C. to interact with legislators regarding issues that affect underrepresented college students, all students with disabilities, Virginians persons with disabilities, and entrepreneurs (particularly those interacting with start-ups).  I believe that there are even better ways than just voting to have your voice be heard – and if you give yourself an opportunity to engage at a high-level it has the opportunity to affect your legislator’s decisions and inform policy that can improve quality of life for all.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Tech's 15th President Charles W. Steger were kind enough to take a photo with me at the 2014 Hokie Day on Capitol Hill in Richmond, VA.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Tech’s 15th President Charles W. Steger were kind enough to let me take a photo with them on Capitol Hill in Richmond, VA.

*I am always one to give credit where credit is due. Therefore, I would like to extend a huge thanks to my friend and colleague Abbas Haider for the great work his company, Aspetto, does in designing all of my custom-tailored formal wear, much of which is showcased on this page.  Thanks, Abbas!

One comment

  1. Avatar
    Scott Lepley says:

    Hello Justin, it’s not often I respond to things I read in the VT monthly news, but the article about you struck a chord with me. As a 4th year architecture student in 1974, I was the victim of a hit and run drunk driver on Price’s Fork Road when headed home one night. I lost my left leg and had lots of related left side damage, the driver got a suspended sentence because back then drunk driving was acceptable behavior for the locals on a Friday night. I had to withdraw from school for that quarter, but like you I found that faculty members, apartment mates, nurses and doctors and the school in general all went out of their way to make sure I still graduated on time, not falling behind or feeling left out after making up the missing time in the summer of ‘75.

    Unlike you, I can’t claim to never have “worked” a day in my life, as the architecture profession has its ups and downs. However, I have made it a point to get involved in numerous non-profits as an architect, from Christmas in April through Habitat for Humanity, and have also volunteered as a ski instructor with 52 Association for the Handicapped, and taught kayaking and Little League baseball for many different disabilities. I have found many forms of recreation to be a great equalizer, both for me and for my students. Also got involved in forming a support group for amputees at a hospital in Toms River, NJ, where 44 years on an artificial leg has made me the dinosaur of our group.

    Anyway, I really just wanted to congratulate you on your achievements, best of luck in the future. I’ve only been back to Tech a couple of times since graduating, both times so my sons could tour the school, but it still represents a large and vital memory.


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