Scholar Profile: Poverty, incarceration and the power of presence

Author: Ryan Milburn

Jessica Pedroza

This past summer, Jessica Pedroza ’17, a political science major, spent eight weeks in Cochabamba, Bolivia, as part of the Center for Social Concern’s International Summer Service Learning Program. While she was there she participated in two different ministry sites—an afterschool tutoring program and Manos Con Libertad, an organization that supports incarcerated and ex-incarcerated women with empowerment classes, new skills, and employment.

“Sitting in several group reflection meetings with inmates and other U.S. volunteers, I was exposed to issues concerning poor women, the criminal system, children and orphans, the indigenous population and politics,” Jessica says. “I also learned about the importance of ministry of presence—how impactful just being present and building relationships is in short-term missions.”

Jessica’s experience in Bolivia set the course for how she’ll spend the Spring 2016 semester: studying—and being present with—inmates in Chile. “I hope to get started on my research, which will likely look into the connection between poverty and incarceration,” Jessica says. “Ideally and God willing, I’ll be volunteering in a prison in Chile during the spring, going back to Bolivia in the summer, and then taking a class at a correctional facility in South Bend to soak up as much as I can regarding the criminal justice system (and the stories of those who wind up in it) in my time left.”

Sarah Kubinski contributed to the editing of this story.