WOOSTER, Ohio — On the fourth Sunday of every month, two students from The College of Wooster spend an hour in the Wayne County Jail – not by compulsion, but rather by choice.
Zoe Hostetler, a junior sociology major from nearby Orrville, and Kaitlyn Rayl, a sophomore biology major from Chesterland, Ohio, conduct a Bible study with as many as 10-12 inmates during each visit.
The two students, members of the College’s Newman Catholic Ministry, wanted to make a difference in the local community, so they joined forces with member’s of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and volunteers from the community’s “Behind Bars and Beyond” program to try and make a difference in the lives of those who struggle with incarceration and recidivism.
“It is wonderful that Kaitlyn and Zoe have taken the lead in trying to better the lives of those who have been imprisoned,” said Wooster’s Catholic Campus Minister Nate Addington. “I am extremely proud of them for the work they are doing.”
And so is the Diocese of Cleveland, which recently selected Hostetler and Rayl for the John Paul II Youth and Young Adult Service Award. “They have taken the lead in bridging the gap between the college and the community by reaching out to a group that is often forgotten,” says Addington, who nominated them for the award.
The idea germinated last summer when Hostetler and Rayl joined Addington at a conference in New Mexico. “They wanted to come up with something that no one else on campus was doing,” says Addington. “After some discussion, they decided that a ministry for those in prison would fill a void.”
Hostetler and Rayl organized the effort last fall and recruited approximately 10 students to become involved. In addition to the Bible Study, the group meets twice each month with former prisoners, who have been released and are now trying to transition back into the mainstream.
In an effort to facilitate that transition, Hostetler and Rayl, with financial support from the diocese, plan to supply those who have been released with a USB drive that includes user-friendly templates for various types of resumes. There will also be templates to help them manage their finances and ultimately break the cycle of recidivism.
“Our primary goal is to let the community know that we care about this marginalized population,” says Hostetler. “We’re trying to help destigmatize these individuals.”
Rayl agreed, adding that “listening to them tell their stories really gives you a new perspective. I now see that there is so much more that we can learn and so much more that we can do to help.”