Native Iowan Baylee O’Brien always strives to make a difference in her community, wherever in Iowa that may be.
O’Brien works with Families First Counseling Services in Cedar Falls. Her work as a behavioral health intervention counselor is meaningful and rewarding. And since graduating in 2012 with degrees in psychology and social work, both programs in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, O’Brien said she uses what she learned at the UI every day.
At Families First, O’Brien counsels young children and teenagers on communication and social skills, decision-making skills, and more. She is also completing a school counseling internship at Hansen Elementary School and is working toward her Master’s in Social Work degree.
“Every day is challenging, and yet I can go in there and impact someone’s life and make a difference,” she said. “That’s why I do what I do. It’s a job that has purpose.”
Before O’Brien moved to Cedar Falls this year, she lived in Fort Dodge, her hometown. She worked at the Families First Counseling Services location there and was able to positively contribute to the Webster County community in the way she is now able to do in Black Hawk County.
But her first taste of this type of work came in Iowa City, when O’Brien attended the UI. During that time, she was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and intern with the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, served as a crisis hotline volunteer at the Crisis Center of Johnson County, and participated in the UI chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
“Those were such important experiences because they were my first experiences [in psychology and social work],” O’Brien said. “The Crisis Center gave me a foundation for the way I speak to individuals in crisis, and the Neighborhood Centers obviously prepared me for how I communicate with children and help them be successful.”
Born and raised in Iowa, O’Brien said she believes she was born a Hawkeye, and will always be one. Whether in Webster, Black Hawk, or Johnson County, O’Brien’s work serves as a conduit for the Hawkeye spirit and knowledge. Wherever she goes, it goes – and it makes all the difference in the world.