This past summer, Cody Hillberry learned the purest and simplest definition of grace from an unlikely source, a summer internship. Through his time spent interning at Progress Community Corrections Center in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, the sociology alumnus from Waynesburg University learned many invaluable lessons.
The internship allowed Hillberry to work alongside specialists and guards who work with addicts, sex-offenders and parole-violators. Through this, he was able to observe many issues first-hand such as class division, sub-cultures within the facility, the impact of negative stigmas on a person's identity, the effects of addiction and criminal thinking.
Hillberry was presented with unique opportunities like shadowing a security officer and leading a group-session on relapse prevention, which allowed him a glimpse into the hands-on criminology aspect of human behavior studies.
But it was his passion for helping others and spreading the Gospel that helped him to release the preconceived notions of judgment and hopelessness that are often associated with offenders and their crimes, and see the human beings residing beneath these stereotypes.
“I [used to have] an attitude that withheld any kind of hope for them,” he said. “However, as I was sitting there one day, I realized that they are no [less] worthy of grace than myself.”
Although he admits that this was not easy for him to embrace, it allowed him to see the potential for grace in others.
“We cannot dismiss people from the responsibility of their actions by any means,” said Hillberry, “However, to dismiss them as being any less human than we are is unjust. As one of the staff at PCCC told me, ‘we’re all a couple bad decisions away from being in the same situation."
In addition to his summer of lessons, Hillberry says he is thankful for his four years at Waynesburg and the challenges his undergraduate experience presented.
“I had to think outside the box, create my own solutions, and figure out my purpose for being at Waynesburg,” he said. “The people I can still call friends, the professors and faculty that took the time to talk to me, my failures and victories, all pushed me forward, and for that I'll always be thankful.”
The Waynesburg graduate is grateful to have had the opportunity that has pointed him to a career involving people, rehabilitation, counseling and redemptive aspect of the Gospel. Due to his experience at Progress Community Corrections Center, he is actively seeking a position as a Juvenile Probation Officer in hopes of continuing to spread the message of Christ.