Editor’s note: Tim O’Brien, a 2011 graduate of Assumption High School, Davenport, was recently profiled in his alma mater’s blog. The following interview is excerpted and reprinted with permission from the Assumption Alumni Relations Office/Jordan Gizzarelli.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. Currently I am a Community Support Specialist with Anchor Behavioral Health-Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. In my free time, I find myself running, watching sports or spending time with my sister Bridget (‘00) and other relatives in the D.C. area.
Q: How did you acquire a job at Catholic Charities of Washington D.C.?
A. During my sophomore year at Loras College (Dubuque, Iowa), my uncle at Catholic Charities helped connect me with the Behavioral Health Institute for a summer internship. I gained great experience and loved the work, so I returned the following summer. As I neared graduation, everything fell into place, and I returned full-time in July (2015).
Q. What made you want to go into Behavioral Health Services?
A. After (sustaining) multiple concussions in college, I started learning more about the brain. When I took Introduction to Neuroscience and other psychology courses, I developed a keener interest in helping those with mental illness, but it was through my summer internships in D.C. that I found my true calling.
Q. What is a typical day for you in your position with Catholic Charities?
A. …Working in Behavioral Health means working with clients who may be homeless, have a history of substance or physical abuse, lack insurance, benefits, transportation, access to food, employment, education, have a criminal history, and also have behavioral, mental, or physical illnesses, diseases, and conditions that need monitoring.
Some days I find myself being called to the hospital, a halfway house, a rehabilitation center, a client’s home, or meeting with clients at my office, or documenting my contact with clients.
On the hardest days, I have found myself counseling clients contemplating suicide, struggling with addiction, channeling anger and aggression, or coping with the death of a loved one.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your work with Catholic Charities?
A. Getting to work with people who are often overlooked or neglected in society and helping them to build bridges out of poverty. Every day I have the opportunity to make a genuine difference in the world.
Q. Your work with Catholic Charities afforded you the opportunity to briefly meet Pope Francis during his visit to DC; what was that experience like?
A. … In volunteering each Wednesday with St. Maria’s Meals (a Catholic Charities program that provides meals for homeless individuals and others in need), serving the meal was the focus of that day. I didn’t know how close I would be to Pope Francis, so meeting him was definitely surreal. Seeing the joy he brought to the clients that Catholic Charities serves each day was truly remarkable. After blessing the meal, Pope Francis shook hands and blessed the crowd.
Q. How has Pope Francis’ visit impacted your faith and those involved at Catholic Charities?
A. His visit reinvigorated us all. As employees, it was a terrific reminder of why we do what we do each day and to always treat people with dignity and respect.
Q. Tell us about your new blog, “My DC Odyssey.”
A. … Moving to D.C., everything was new and different. I found I needed a way to collect my thoughts along the way due to everything I was being challenged with at work and adjusting to post-college life.
Q. What are some of the things you learned at Assumption?
A. By being involved with sports, theater, FCA, service projects, or group projects in the classroom, I learned the importance of balance and working together to accomplish each goal. Many of the lessons I learned were from my classmates and teammates … how we worked together to overcome the challenges always reminded me of how important putting in the extra effort was.
Q: How do you feel your time at Assumption has helped you in your career?
A. … One of my clients complained of knee pain. I wrote, “The client noted pain on anterior and lateral locations of right knee.” It was not my first time using these terms learned from Mrs. Martin’s Anatomy & Physiology class, and I’m sure it won’t be the last! Each day I find myself writing about 4-5 pages in notes and I always get compliments on my sentence structure, vocabulary, and attention to detail. I guess all of those corrections and rough drafts in English helped. Out of the classroom, I had multiple injuries through high school. The lessons I learned from tennis and soccer, and persevering through the injuries helps me to better help my clients every day.
Q: Do you have any last words of encouragement for the Class of 2016?
A. Being the top dogs and leaders of the school is such a great feeling, but the time goes by fast. Work to leave a legacy you can look back on and be proud of. Enjoy your senior year at AHS. Don’t forget to take some pictures, open the textbook now and again, and thank your teachers, coaches and parents along the way. One of the biggest challenges is staying in touch with friends post-graduation, but it’s worth the effort. I can’t wait to see all of the great things you accomplish (like beating Bettendorf). Go Knights!