Jessica Harring '04

Jessica Harring graduated from the Thompson School in 2004 with a degree in what was then known as the Community Service & Leadership program, and in a recent interview she discussed how her experiences in the program helped her get to a place in life that she never would have dreamed possible. The CoLead program helped her to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and (very soon) her Master's degree, all while loving what she does. In her own words, here is what Jess has to say:

“I graduated from the Community Service and Leadership program in 2004 with honors.  I am currently the weekend shift supervisor at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation. I oversee 16 different residential homes and their managers and the multiple staff that work in each home with over 150 students that reside on mountain. I also oversee 4 crisis response staff who are called when there is a behavioral or medical issue on mountain. I will also respond in times of crisis and facilitate any action that needs to be taken when there is a report of abuse or neglect on mountain, or when staff or students need emergency care…. My job has become a balance between making sure our clients have quality of life: planning trips, activities, social events… and keeping the staff morale up. Direct care is a demanding and underpaid job, especially when working with clients who have behavioral issues.

“On top of my position at Crotched Mountain I am back in school… as part of my masters degree program I have a clinical internship that I do 15-20hours a week Monday through Friday. I work in the Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program at Child and Family Services in Manchester. I co-facilitate our Intensive Outpatient Group for teens struggling with addiction. The group is 12 weeks long. While here, I have also had the opportunity to complete intake assessments and see some clients in one-on-one sessions. I currently have a caseload of three people that I see once a week for individual sessions.

 “In high school, I didn’t really think that I would have the opportunity to go to college. I was terrible in math and my parents were very strict; they wanted me to settle down and get married. I applied to UNH in secret and I received an acceptance letter from the Thompson School of Applied Science Community Service and Leadership program some weeks later. I was able to convince my parents to let me go because it was only a two year program and I would be out in no time. On top of that, the classes were smaller and I got the extra help that I needed with math — that in itself helped me to progress and to eventually have opportunities open up to me that hadn’t been an option before.

“Coming from a rather sheltered background in a small NH town, college was an overwhelming experience for me. But Kate and Tim looked out for me, and I didn’t feel so alone in such a big school. And because the program was small, I was able to make friends and build confidence. Had I gone into a larger program at UNH right away I’m not sure that I would have been successful.

 “The program gave me an opportunity to do a lot of hands-on projects. I was out organizing events, recruiting volunteers, and meeting people in the field right away. I wasn’t stuck in a classroom learning about what it might be like to do non-profit work, I was out actually doing it and then talking about it with the others who were also having their own experiences.

 “While at UNH I attended classes but I also worked at SHARPP (the Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program) on campus. I was able to combine the knowledge I learned in my classes of recruiting and organizing volunteers and apply that to my job as chair of Take Back the Night and the clothesline project. I also helped organize the walk for AIDS that they have in Portsmouth every year and did work on food and clothing drives on numerous occasions. UNH is a big school and this opens up a lot of opportunities to fundraise, organize, network and practice other skills that will only benefit you when building your resume.

“After graduating from the Thompson School I was accepted in the UNH School of Health and Human Services and obtained my Bachelors in Social Work. I continued to work while attending school—at A Safe Place Domestic Violence Shelter as well as in an internship at The Feminist Health Center in Greenland, NH, doing pregnancy options and STD counseling. Upon graduating I obtained a job at Work Opportunities Unlimited as a career resource specialist. Since then I have worked at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England—doing exactly what I learned to do at TSAS, organize and recruit volunteers and put on community events. That has been my all time favorite job so far. I later worked at Alvirne High School in the In School Suspension room working with behavioral teens.

“I am currently in a position that I never dreamed I would be in. I will be receiving my Masters from NEC this spring in Mental Health Counseling and hope to be licensed soon after. I also have a job where I am actually considered upper management and an authority in my field—all at only 29 years old. There is no doubt in my mind that the Co-Lead program not only prepared me for the future by giving me the practical skills that I needed, but it gave me the confidence and passion to go out and achieve my goals.

"Upon graduating with a Masters this spring I hope to work under a clinical supervisor so that I can become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Working with addicts currently, I have also thought about completing the requirements for my MLDAC. There is so much that I hope to experience. I have considered working as a guidance counselor at some point, possibly trying to learn more about veterans' affairs, and I would love to have my own private practice. If time permits I may even start a family before completing my doctorate. The opportunities are infinite.”

Writen by Matt Yeoman