Brilynn’s Story

Goodwill’s Work Experience Helped Her Through Difficult Times

By Brilynn, Goodwill Omaha Work Experience Participant

Hi, my name is Brilynn, but I also go by Bri. I am 18 years old, and my favorite things to do are to write poetry and draw. I also like listening to music. I went to Blair High School, and I graduated in August 2020.

I suffer from a birth defect called spina bifida with hydrocephalus, which prevents a baby’s developing spinal cord from developing correctly. Hydrocephalus often comes with spina bifida. Another term for it is “water on the brain,” which means there is extra fluid in or around my brain, in areas called ventricles.

I also have something called S/P VP shunt — it’s a device that releases pressure on my brain caused by the fluid accumulation. That is a reason that I was in special education classes for extra help on classwork.

Most children with spina bifida are paralyzed from the waist down; however, I somehow got lucky and am able to walk. Thankfully, I was able to be independent with activities at school. Sometimes, it would affect my back and the way I had to do certain things, but I tried to not let it get the best of me. I never really understood my disability until I was a freshman in high school. That’s when I really started to pay attention to the information my doctors and family would tell me about it.

In school, I was fortunate to have a paraprofessional help me with my work. I’m now in Goodwill’s Work Experience program, and my paraprofessional, Aubrey Gutierrez, is my Work Experience trainer.

In my free time when it’s just me or I want to be alone, I like to go for a walk at a park and watch YouTube or TikTok. Sometimes, I just walk to clear my head and think about things. When I am going through a lot of stuff, I become angry and close people out. Walking helps. I’m also very close to my family; I always know I can turn to them when I need them.

My great-grandma was my best friend. After she passed away in December 2016, I took it pretty hard and didn’t really care about anything for a while. I started reading books and writing poetry to cope.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer/songwriter. However, now that I am older, I am not really sure what I want to do in the future as a career. I have been deciding between a few things. The two things I am stuck between are photography and working with children.

Back when I was in high school, I got made fun of because of my disability and also because I was in special education classes for help. I had a hard time with that, and I overcame the challenge by telling myself to not be ashamed of who or how I was. I tried many times to understand why I got made fun of, but I never really understood the reasons behind it. I had very few friends in high school who I trusted or talked to about things and situations I was going through. Most of the time, I kept to myself.

One of the reasons I keep to myself is I don’t like to bug or worry people about my issues. I always try to look for the positives of everything that happens in my life. I’ve always been a friendly person; however, I don’t open up easily. I have been able to overcome that by getting to know the person and seeing whether they are trustworthy.

The positive I look toward is that at least I can do things independently and don’t have to depend on people for everything. That’s another thing I’m grateful for — being able to walk and do most things independently.

Goodwill’s Work Experience program has taught me skills that I’ll need for a regular job: time management, organizational skills, information logging, cleaning, and inventory skills. When I started the Work Experience program, I did not really like it at first because I was unfamiliar with the jobs, and certain things caused issues with my back. I talked to my trainer, though, and we figured out ways to help me work better.

I have not had any issues with my disability since then, which is a good thing because I am able to continue to work at the Goodwill store in Blair and complete my Work Experience requirements every day. My favorite thing to do at Goodwill is data entry because I like typing, and I like learning new things on computers.

The first time I went to work in the Work Experience program, it was only for a semester because I liked and wanted to be in choir class. When I came to school this year, I attended every semester. Now that I know my Work Experience trainer better, I see a person with a great sense of humor, and she always knows how to make someone feel better. I think she has a great personality for Goodwill, and she helped me get through a recent struggle with a toxic person in my life.

My Work Experience trainer is joyful, uplifting, and motivational. We work as a team, and she’s one of the few people in my life who knows me. She’s like having another mother figure to take care of me and to help me.