• 59°

Livingstone student partners with GRACES for international internship

Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY — Livingstone College senior Jessica Bledsoe works in Salisbury, but she is making a huge impact nearly 3,000 miles away.

The social work major is completing her internship at a local nonprofit organization called Guatemalan Relief Assistance for Children’s Educational Services (GRACES).

The organization finances a school in Antigua, Guatemala, called Escuela Integrada that helps break the cycle of poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy.

Paula Bohland, GRACES executive director, said 75 percent of the indigenous children never obtain an education. GRACES sponsors the total student population there, which is currently 161 children, totaling a modest $260,000 per year when compared to education costs in the United States.

GRACES held its inaugural Quetzal Gala on Saturday at the Country Club of Salisbury to raise money to continue its support of the Guatemalan school. Until now, GRACES has funded the school through sponsorships.

This was perfect timing for GRACES to get the extra help and assistance of a college student. Bledsoe has been busy with the organization helping to plan the gala and being an extra set of hands for Bohland, who is the only other staffer in the United States.

Hannah Nadeau, project director, works for GRACES in Guatemala but came to town this week for the gala.

“I have learned a lot about international social work and the proper way to do things,” Bledsoe said.

“Jessica has jumped in to help and has worked alongside me,” Bohland said.

The gala featured an educational component including models of the houses and stoves in Guatemala. Bledsoe created the models and food mock-ups of the typical breakfast and lunch that Guatemalans eat.

This is Bledsoe’s second time attending college. When she was 19 years old, she went to N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro with hopes of becoming a nurse, but she said she wasn’t focused and didn’t finish her degree. The Army veteran eventually ended up working at the VA Medical Center in Salisbury, where she retired after 25 years.

She came to Livingstone College through a vocational rehabilitation program and considered studying culinary arts and psychology, before deciding on social work.

“When I was growing up, my idea of a social worker was a white lady with glasses in a plaid skirt taking kids out of their homes and giving out cheese,” Bledsoe said.

But after speaking with some social work students at Livingstone, her idea about the field changed and she decided to pursue a social work career.

Frances Ferrante, director of field placement and an assistant professor at Livingstone College, said Bledsoe’s placement is the first at GRACES for the social work department at the college.

“This organization is doing inspiring work both locally and globally. We are fortunate to have our social work student, Jessica Bledsoe, placed under the supervision of a wonderful organization. Our student is working incredibly hard and learning a great deal about international social work,” Ferrante said. “We would love the opportunity to partner with other social work agencies in the county.”

Bledsoe said she now finds herself on conference calls with peers in Guatemala and is headed on her first trip out of the country come November, when she will fly there to visit the school she is helping.

The mother of four children, three of which are triplets, will graduate in December and plans to obtain her master’s degree.

“This internship has taught me a lot,” Bledsoe said.

For more information about GRACES, visit www.weareGRACES.org.


East Spencer

East Spencer draws crowd for annual community day


In Rowan’s legislative races, Howard, Warren get off to strongest start in fundraising


From Navy SEAL to Medicare agent, Trent Waller looks to continue serving his community


In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help


Rowan County Telecommunications joins new state digital 911 system


School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures


Biz Roundup: Food Lion makes donation to support racial equality and justice


Republicans rally supporters at Saturday lunch


Budd holds wide lead over Huffman in fundraising, cash on hand


Multiple law enforcement agencies respond to shooting at Halloween attraction


Trump picks conservative Amy Coney Barrett to fill Supreme Court seat


Deadly September propels Rowan County to 100 deaths from COVID-19


Highway Patrol charges man in hit-and-run after finding vehicle hidden in woods


NC elections board, Republicans at odds over absentee ballot rule changes


Voters struggling with witness rules in early voting


Trump expected to announce conservative Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court


County reports COVID-19 percent positive rate of 8%


Rowan County United Way sets $1.5 million goal at drive-in kickoff event


Blotter: Adult daughters accused of beating up mother

China Grove

China Grove firefighters injured after truck overturns


Salisbury VA to reopen entry, exit gates


Sheriff’s Office looking for suspect in Burlington Coat Factory theft


Requests for absentee ballots top 9,000 in Rowan


Spencer approves supplemental USDA loan for Park Plaza project