We’re travelling to Central America for this week’s Public Service Fellowship Spotlight! Rising SMU junior Jessica Jancose is spending her summer volunteering in Cartago, Costa Rica on a project offered by UBELONG at a government-supported community center for the elderly.
While the majority of our Public Service Fellows are serving right here in DFW, a couple are spreading their wings and serving internationally. Jessica Jancose, an SMU senior, is spending her summer in beautiful Costa Rica. While she has made time for some fun activities along the way, her Fellowship is being spent in the warm company of Costa Rica’s senior citizens in need of friendship and care.
Jessica is a double major in Health and Society and Human Rights with a minor in Women and Gender Studies and is on the pre-med track. She believes in fighting against the mentality that senior citizens are no longer productive members of society. The government-supported center where she is working, Ascate, serves around 100 senior citizens, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. As a volunteer, Jessica is responsible for providing them with emotional support and promoting a fun environment through helping out with games, exercises and other activities. “By the end of my project I hope to have made a meaningful impact on the lives of the people in Ascate – both the employees and the senior citizens who frequent the center.”
Before starting her work at Ascate, Jessica immersed herself in the Spanish language and Costa Rican culture by participating in the SMU Spanish language program in Heredia. Increasing her language proficiency in Costa Rica this summer will allow Jessica to one day become a better healthcare provider and allow her to advocate for Spanish-speaking people across a range of issues. While she says she still has a long way to go before considering herself fluent, she says immersing herself in the culture and language has been invaluable. “I can’t wait to come back to Latin America and improve my language skills further and hopefully in my future use these language skills to help America’s Spanish speaking population in the field of public health.”
Not only has her volunteer work made a big impact on the Cartago community, but it has influenced her future plans as well. “Education is free here in Costa Rica and I would love to come back after graduation to earn my Masters in Public Health. Being immersed in a Spanish speaking country after only a year of Spanish has probably been the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done but it’s also without a doubt been the most rewarding.”