Jessica Schell ('11) | Youth & Family Ministry

jessica schell

Youth & family ministry major
from Willow Park, Texas

Jessica Schell wants to spend her life working with people who have committed various crimes - theft, murder, drug use and more. The people she seeks to help will be under armed guard, behind bars, and desperate for hope. 

In other words, she wants to work in prison ministry. 

"I think that God has given me the gift of mercy," she says.

As a prison chaplain, she'll work with the warden, counsel inmates and plan programs for them. She also wants to implement programs in prisons that allow prisoners to talk to juvenile delinquents in order to warn them about the bad choices they're making. She hopes such programs will positively influence young offenders. 

"I think it would be an investment of time," she said. "I think we could change the world if we set up programs to minister to them."

Jessica is aware that prisoners are often regarded as social pariahs. But that doesn't stop her drive to change their lives. 

"I think you look at every person with hope, and with the vision and image of Christ in front of them," she said. "And then you just have to love the heck out of them."

Power of the Word

Jessica has been interested in ministry since high school, when she worked with her youth group as a student intern during her senior year. She became intrigued by the power of the word of God in her life and those of others. 

"I'm fascinated by the Bible," she said. 

Jessica came to ACU through a circuitous route. She started her undergraduate studies at Texas Tech University, but came to visit a friend at ACU her freshman year. While she was waiting on her friend in one of the parking lots on campus, she met Dr. Rodney Ashlock, chair of the Bible department, who offered to give her a personal tour of the university. That tour sparked an interest in her that hasn't waned yet. 

"I just kind of fell in love [with the university]…and I have loved it ever since," she said. "Now I know how great this school is."

As a member of the College of Biblical Studies, Jessica has found that the faculty and staff make it their personal mission to relate what students learn in class to their personal spirituality. 

"I could not say enough wonderful things about the professors," she said. "I feel like the teachers here help you spiritually. They're just so willing to work with you. You can't get that anywhere else."

Academic challenges

At the same time, professors call students to academic excellence in their fields. 

"They definitely challenge us all the time…they call us to a higher standard."

While staying involved in her studies, Jessica also finds time to fulfill her responsibilities as residential assistant in Nelson Hall, one of the freshman girls'  dorms on campus. She's in charge of curfew and visitation on her hall, manning the desk downstairs during certain shifts, handling maintenance requests, and putting on two programs a month for her hall. She admits it's a sacrifice of time. But the results are well worth it. 

"I absolutely love it. It's ridiculously tiring, but so worth it," she said. 

Jessica is willing to do whatever her residents need - so if that means late-night counseling sessions or answering a flood of anxious questions, so be it. Sometimes it's hard to keep everything running smoothly, though. 

"I feel like a mom with 28 little ducklings," she said, laughing. 

Community building

One of the biggest themes of residence life is teaching freshmen how to handle living around each other - so one of Jessica's goals is to get her girls to connect to each other. To that end, she holds a weekly Bible study with them once a week. 

"We try to get the girls to build community," she said. 

In the process, Jessica has gained a sense of personal responsibility toward the freshmen in Nelson - and has formed some great friendships as well. She's also discovered that enforced community makes her reach out more than she would ordinarily. 

"I've learned a lot about myself," she said. 

After she earns her undergraduate degrees, Jessica plans to attend graduate school and hopes to earn a master's in Hebrew Bible or a Master's of Divinity. 

But no matter what degree she earns, Jessica's passion for helping the marginalized and the condemned isn't going to waver. She's firmly set on working with those whom she believes need help most. 

"I couldn't imagine doing anything else other than ministry," she said.  

Learn more about attending ACU 

Taking it to the Streets
Matt Wallace
Alumnus Matt Wallace describes his ministry with homeless teens in Denver, Colorado, and how ACU prepared him for a life of service.
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