As a senior majoring in social work at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, Brooke Harris was required to complete a full-year internship. Her first placement got off to a rocky start, but then Brooke joined Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU). She gained valuable industry skills, helped change the world of work for people with barriers to employment, and is closer to realizing her future career goals as she continues her education!

Brooke had been placed as an intern at another organization during the summer of 2023, but she quickly grasped that it wasn’t right for her. The work didn’t include client-based services, which was what she preferred to do, and the long commute would complicate her school schedule. Brooke hopped online and searched for “social work internships.” WOU’s website was in the results, so she clicked the link and was intrigued. She recalls, “I started watching all of the videos and I thought, this is just so fun and positive. I applied on my own and asked my program if it was okay to change over to Work Opportunities, and they said yes.”

In July of 2023, Brooke started her internship in WOU’s Seacoast market as a Career Resource Specialist (CRS), dedicating her days to breaking down the barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Brooke was understandably nervous at first – after all, as she says, “I had never done an internship before, and I had never worked with people on my own,” aside from customer service responsibilities from her previous part-time jobs in restaurants. But after Brooke began initial training, shadowed several other CRSs in the field, and received her first caseload, she was excited to dive in to the role. “Once I started doing actual work with the clients, I thought wow, this is really cool and really fun!”

Brooke began working with clients on her own. First, she supported three clients who bagged groceries at the same local grocery store. Then she moved on to support two clients working at a retail establishment, and she also regularly brought a third individual out into the community. During these experiences, Brooke says, “I learned that every individual has such different needs.” She kept on top of client notes each day. She also had the opportunity to join a retention plan meeting, where a WOU client and their employer meet to discuss the client’s progress. “Being able to see how meetings are run in a professional setting, that was something new for me,” says Brooke. “It was very educational.”

Balancing 16 hours each week at her internship and full-time college coursework has been easier for Brooke than she expected. She has attributed a lot of learning and growth to her experience at WOU, noting in particular time management and interpersonal skills. “I’ve learned how to schedule out my day so I know I can get services in with all my clients and have enough time with each of them. Also, especially with the one-on-one work for individuals, I’ve learned how to communicate with people better. This internship has helped me in so many ways and I have learned so much.”

WOU’s President & CEO David Dwyer, who supervised Brooke’s internship, says, “Brooke has shown tremendous professional growth over the past year. She started her paid internship with our Seacoast team having never worked in this field, to now a school year later being a seasoned professional who can work with any individual we serve. Brooke has a great way of connecting to each person she works with as individuals, and she adapts her style to that individual. I have greatly enjoyed being part of her team, seeing her confidence grow, and her skills flourish. She has been an asset to the individuals she has worked with, and to WOU in general.”

Upon graduating with her Bachelor’s in Social Work in May of 2024, Brooke will pursue her master’s degree in the same discipline through her college’s online program. She hopes to continue working as a CRS as well, likely in a different WOU market, once she settles into a new home after graduation. Says Brooke, “I have loved working at WOU. The scheduling is so flexible, everyone is so nice, and I really like working out in the community.” After successfully completing her internship at WOU, Brooke is ready for whatever the future brings!