Wolff Fellows Advocate in Community


June 25, 2019
By Madeline Hueske (’19)

An exciting program through the Gonzaga Center for Community Engagement provides five students with the ability to gain paid experience working for nonprofits, an uncommon opportunity, especially for college students. These students are Wolff Fellows, sponsored by the Wolff Family to build community capacity and strengthen partnerships between Gonzaga and host agencies. Projects are based on Gonzaga’s Arrupe Engagement Pathways which focus on faith and justice, community-engaged learning, social innovation, policy and politics, advocacy, and direct service.

One Fellow during the 2018-19 academic year was Gabriella Castro (’19), who interned at the Center for Justice, a nonprofit legal center dedicated to establishing community equity. Castro’s primary role was with the Driver’s Relicensing Program, where she filed paperwork, wrote motions, researched relevant laws and met with people formerly incarcerated.

Castro’s work was both rewarding and challenging. “I know social justice has many faces, and that the stigma attached to ex-prisoners problematizes their attempts to reenter society,” she says. “Although I always considered myself an empathetic person, working with ex-criminals has demanded a new level of understanding. Changing my mentality means that every day I go to work, I now recognize my capacity to help someone change their life and stop this unjust cycle in its tracks. In this way my challenge was my highlight.”

Castro is attending law school in the fall and is pursuing public interest law. “It is one thing to study political science and criminal justice, but it is another to see how it truly impacts lives. It is evident that these people need more advocates,” she says.

Her work, and that of the other Wolff Fellows, is making a difference in the Spokane community and advocating for causes deeply engrained in Gonzaga’s mission.

 

Bailley Wootton is the staff coordinator for the program, now in its third year. Contact her at wootton@gonzaga.edu for more information.