By Megan Molitor
Boldly stating an opinion in a courtroom of legal professionals may sound intimidating, but Brooke Larson was doing exactly that when she was just a sophomore at Kansas State University — and never looked back.
Larson earned a degree in communication studies with an emphasis in legal communication in December 2011; however, her K-State education began with a little experimentation. After exploring as an open option major, she tried out pre-dental, finance, marketing and public relations before finding a home her junior year in the department of communication studies.
Larson became interested in legal communication after her sophomore year, when she began volunteering for the Sunflower Court Appointed Special Advocate Project Inc. in Manhattan, known as Sunflower CASA. CASA is a national program, and the local branch serves children in Riley, Clay and Pottawatomie counties.
“Volunteers are appointed a child with a case, and our job is to act as the eyes and ears of the court,” Larson said. “We spend time with the child, talk to their parents and teachers, then submit court reports during hearings recommending placements or therapies for the child.”
This amount of responsibility quickly changed Larson’s life path. After finding her way to the communication studies department, she also found a way to use her education to speak up for those who didn’t have a voice. In addition to volunteering, Larson also holds a resource development internship at CASA, helping recruit volunteers and raise funds.
Now that she has seen both sides of the CASA coin, Larson said it’s easy to see how her internship and educational experiences will intertwine to make her the best possible advocate for children.
“Talking to attorneys and social workers in my internship correlates directly with my degree in legal communications,” she said. “It’s all about relationships and developing ties with the community. Relationships and the ability to communicate are important in the legal world so you can help people who can’t speak up for themselves.”
Larson pointed to her courses in nonverbal and interpersonal communication as guiding lights during her internship at CASA. She said she is also grateful that open discussion was necessary in many of her communication studies courses.
“Having that encouragement to speak your mind and the knowledge to back up your opinions has been so important in my internship at CASA,” Larson said. “Being able to back up my reasons for a child’s recommendations is imperative.”
This ability is not going unnoticed. Bridget Howland, Larson’s supervisor and the resource development director at CASA, said the star intern came to CASA with strong skills in written and oral communication.
“I felt comfortable giving Brooke projects that involved preparing marketing materials and giving presentations because I knew she was prepared to take on these tasks,” Howland said. “Brooke is someone who could take a project and run with it without requiring a lot of supervision.”
Although Larson has graduated and her internship is winding down, her passion for helping children and growing expertise has turned her internship into a paycheck. She has been hired part-time as a resource development specialist. That is, until she realizes her next goal: going back to school to get her master’s degree in counseling to help children who have been abused or neglected.
“My internship has shown me what I want to do with my life,” Larson said. “At the end of every case I’ve worked on, it’s amazing to step back and think that because of my help a child is in a better place.”