The Story of Brendan Hooker: How Internship Inspired a Recent College Grad to Make Life-Changing Decisions

By Rhonda Jessup, Director of Public Relations at the University of Mount Olive

Brendan Hooker of Garner had a rocky start in life.  A child of divorce, he struggled with his identity, family connections, and friend choices.  

“I considered myself to have been a rather difficult person to get along with until I found religion near the end of high school,” he admits.  “Mental health issues and a general feeling of being unwanted made me act out in ways I’m not proud of.”  

Once Hooker found Jesus Christ, he said, “I began to improve myself on moral grounds, as well as tackle the internal struggles that were negatively influencing my well-being.”

Hooker became a kinder and more outgoing person.  Rather than avoiding him, people began to gravitate toward Hooker.  “I was finally able to accept myself, and I became comfortable associating with others,” he said.  “I began to form positive relationships that opened up fantastic opportunities to me.”

One of those opportunities came about during his studies at the University of Mount Olive (UMO), where Hooker was a student from the fall of 2018 until the spring of 2022.  Majoring in English and minoring in psychology, Hooker accepted an internship during the spring of his senior year with the History Department at Wayne County Public Library.  “One of my English professors, Dr. Alexis Poe-Davis, actually recommended the position to me,” he said.    

During the six-week internship, Hooker’s responsibilities included attending lectures, helping teach classes on genealogy resources, and assisting other librarians.  His favorite part of the job was writing for the library’s monthly newsletter, “The Big Ditch.”  “I was really able to put my writing skills to work,” he said.  

Hooker enjoyed the experience so much that, at the close of the internship, he applied for and accepted a position as a Digital Navigator.  Since then, he has been promoted to Library Assistant/Public Relations Coordinator, effective August 1.  In this new role, he will soon relocate to the Mount Olive branch of the Wayne County library system.

“My internship helped me to realize that libraries have so many great resources to offer in addition to books,” Hooker said.  “My ultimate take-away is that you should take an opportunity when it is presented to you.”  

Hooker plans to seek his librarian certification as he continues his passion of public service within Wayne County Government. He currently resides in Warsaw, NC.  

“I am so grateful for the life-long bonds I formed while at UMO,” he said.  “The quality of education that I received from my professors will help me achieve anything I set my mind to accomplishing.” 

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University is sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists.  For more information, visit www.umo.edu.              

When Your World Falls Apart: What To Do When You Lose The Dream You Thought Came True

Another lifetime ago, I lived in Winston-Salem and worked with artists. I loved everything about my life: cool weather, historic places to explore, a beautiful townhome, lots of friends that gathered throughout the week, a creative job I loved, and volunteer service to help artists in the church and in the community.

I was living my best life–my best dream–till it all crashed to the floor.

I lost my job and couldn’t find another one. My finances ran thin, so I picked up part time work as a nanny. All the friends so eager to hang out before were now suddenly non-existent. The only thing I had left was my volunteer service, but I was quickly losing that too if I couldn’t afford my housing.

One night I was standing on the side of the road picking up dog poo from a client, and I had a light bulb moment. “What are you doing here?” I told myself. “You have a college education; why aren’t you using it?”

The dream I thought I had was gone, but I convinced myself that somehow it would all come back if I could just find a way to stay in Winston-Salem.

I decided to take on a roommate–first in over four years since college–to help out. I thought everything was going well and things were starting to look up. Then I overheard her on the phone looking for a new place to rent without telling me she wanted to leave. I was devastated and angry, so I acted quickly to take charge. I put in my notice with the leasing office, packed up my belongings, and moved home.

The Lie I Believed For A Decade

A lot of anger got packed up with me when I left that place. I didn’t understand how God could let me live the dream and then lose it.

I let the anger box away every good memory from that time in my life and tell me I would never again live a happy or fulfilled life.

I allowed myself to believe I never heard from God in Winston-Salem, and, maybe, I never heard God at all. For a decade thereafter, I lived in a cloud of sorrow and regret believing my best years were behind me. But God…

Hindsight is 20-20: Discovering My Tribe

Looking back now, I see things differently. The more I had tried to stay in Winston-Salem, the more I needed to go. My roommate was just the final straw in a long list of circumstances pushing me to leave. Sure, God could have opened doors of prosperity and protection to keep my dream going in Winston-Salem. If He had done that, however, it wouldn’t have been the full dream He had for me.

What I really had in Winston-Salem was a glimpse of my purpose and calling and clarification of who my tribe is.

Every Christian has a unique tribe or group of people they can talk to about faith and life without inhibitions. You have a specific set of skills that resonate with them, and they will listen to you in ways they won’t listen to otbers.

For me, that group is artists. While I loved my work with artists in Winston-Salem, I was meant to meet and work with more artists than just the ones in that location. I couldn’t have known that without leaving it.

Find Peace With It and Stay The Course

I had a choice to stay angry and distanced from God or forgive the past and move on. I chose the latter. Doing so opened doors for me to begin to heal from that pain and even see the beauty in it.

Understanding doesn’t come quick or easy, but one thing I did come to understand was that my best years were not behind me in Winston-Salem. A lot of good came from leaving, and a much bigger purpose for my life started happening after I came home.

Once you make up your mind to move forward after pain, you have to be determined to stick to it and not pick up that old grudge.

Allow God to give you new experiences. Put Him first and pursue the vision He gives you for your life. When you do that, you don’t have to go looking for ways to use your talent or feel fulfilled. God will put you in the path you need to go and lead you to ministry in unexpected ways.

Enjoy the journey!