As a long-standing tradition, representatives from Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU) visit area schools and present the organization’s goals and mission to students, in an effort to show them how they can put their education to use and why they should explore career opportunities with WOU after graduation. A visit to UMass Lowell in September of 2018, though, turned into something more than just an introduction to the organization: it blossomed into WOU’s first ever internship! To say the venture was a success would be an understatement. The program changed the lives of two people, and WOU hopes to continue with the program to change even more lives in the future.
Back in the early 2000’s, Stacey Plamondon, Director of Recruiting for WOU, was attending UMass Lowell for her undergraduate degree, and learned about WOU and its mission from a fellow student who worked at WOU. The classmate spoke to the class about the organization’s mission and how her job was positively impacting those with disabilities. Stacey was so impressed that she interviewed with WOU and began working for the company shortly after graduation.
Fast forward to September of 2018 when Stacey herself, was presenting WOU’s capabilities to a disabilities studies class at UMass Lowell. After the presentation, the professor approached Stacey and asked if WOU would entertain an opportunity for a student to fulfill his or her required field-work through Work Opportunities Unlimited. Stacey was thrilled with the idea and set a plan in place for an intern to assist in the WOU Job Club program held in the organization’s Lowell, Massachusetts office.
That intern turned out to be Danny Gallant. Danny is currently pursuing a psychology degree at UMass Lowell and at the time of the presentation, he was taking a course that required 16 hours of one-on-one time with a person with disabilities. When his professor announced that WOU would be offering a student an opportunity to fulfill their field requirements with them, Danny expressed his interest and was chosen as WOU’s first-ever intern.
Stacey said, “Danny presented as someone truly interested in learning more about the field, so we had him come in and observe a Job Club.” Job Club is a two-hour workshop held twice weekly that teaches WOU clients all the skills they’ll need for a job search. During the first hour, clients are taught skills like how to present themselves in an interview, how to write a cover letter and resume, and more. During the second hour, clients and WOU representatives search for jobs together.
During the initial visit, Danny made a great connection with one particular client. Stacey said, “Based on their connection, we thought it would be great for Danny to work with this individual and give him the one-on-one support he could use.”
Danny started his internship in October under the guidance of Career Resource Specialist Jennifer Roman. She said, “During Job Club, Danny did great. He took his time, was very patient, and really helped the client find suitable job opportunities and work through the application process. He was so helpful that when the internship ended, I hoped that another “Danny” would come along.”
As for Danny, he gained an entirely new outlook on his education and career. “I love the program,” he said. “It’s gotten me more excited about what I want to do, and it’s helped me pick up more understanding on behaviors by observation that I couldn’t have seen through just a class.”
He’s also grown with the help of his client. “Before I started with WOU, I was interested in working with children, but by working with this client, I’ve become more open to working with a broader age group.”
The internship was so successful that it blossomed into a career opportunity for Danny. He was offered—and accepted—a position as a Career Resource Specialist in WOU’s Lowell office. He will now be able to help even more clients with disabilities gain meaningful employment.
Due to its success, Work Opportunities Unlimited is looking to expand this opportunity to students from other colleges that offer courses in disability studies. If you are interested in learning more about how you can make an impact in your community and gain experience in the field with WOU, please contact Stacey Plamondon at firstname.lastname@example.org.