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Stories from Coach for College

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1 Stories from Coach for College

2 These kids taught me that everything is possible when you have motivation and dreams, even when you don’t have many resources. I learned that these kids had to wake up very early and help their parents at work and then they had to go to school prepared to be the best in their classes and sports. They were really good friends and teammates, and I saw this through their constant support and motivation for one another. Their optimism created dreams for many of them, including to one day be doctors, teachers, engineers, and nurses. Their energy and their hope for a better future than their parents had before them was seen in their eyes and their smiles. They showed me their paintings and crafts which intensely illustrated their short lives. There were no limits or barriers for them because they were willing to work hard in order to be successful. The kids were very poor, however, they wanted to share with you everything that they had, without asking for anything back because they simply enjoyed the act of giving. They loved in an unconditional and an innocent way, being very honest and caring. This is what made me change my perspective of life…Promoting education in third world countries has become my number one priority. Alicia Casillas, Univ. of Miami Women’s Swimming & Diving, CFC Coach Summer 2011

3 Alex Kenley, UNC Men’s Swimming & Diving, CFC Coach Summer 2009
At twenty-four years old, I have had a wide variety of experiences and successes: I have been a national champion as a Junior Olympic athlete; I transitioned my competitive trampoline career to walking on to the UNC diving team and eventually becoming a scholarship athlete despite no prior competitive experience; I have traveled to more than thirty countries; I have had the opportunity to impact three global companies through my consulting career; I have been to the Olympic Games; I have climbed the Great Wall and Eiffel Tower, seen Panasonic’s version of the future in the headquarters in Japan, and spent a winter weekend in Moscow; I spent eight months traveling the world with 44 counterparts from 6 countries in a tri-continental business exchange program. Yet despite my bevy of experiences, the three weeks that I spent in Vietnam in the summer of 2009 are the three most impactful weeks of my life…The most telling sign of the program happened on the final day and afterwards. As we concluded the final awards presentation and began saying our goodbyes, the Vietnamese students burst into tears. They had truly embraced our presence during those few weeks and were sad to see us go. Likewise, most of us Americans had a hard time holding back tears as well; it was sad to leave knowing that we would not likely know how they progressed with their lives. Yet we had underestimated the impact that we had on the students. By the time I had arrived back in the United States, I had more than one dozen s waiting for me. The students had set up accounts and written me in Vietnamese, and through online translating sites, I responded. For months these conversations kept up, and to this day, I still have Skype phone calls with one of my students. Alex Kenley, UNC Men’s Swimming & Diving, CFC Coach Summer 2009

4 I felt like I learned a lot from the Vietnamese coaches, but spending time with the kids every day gave me so many more lessons. Even though we could not communicate verbally, the children would point at things, use body language, or even use your own body to show you things you normally would have missed. One day a storm came through that halted our outdoor basketball class. As we started to run under cover one of my students, Tho, grabbed my hand and pulled me to the side to look at some patches of grass. Tho took my pointer finger and ran it down one of the pieces with several leaves attached. As my finger touched the grass, each leaf on the blade began to close to protect itself. She then pointed at the rain and showed me how the grass protects itself from the rain, or “mua” (one of the several terms she taught me)… I fell in love with the kids and with Vietnam. I wanted to come back. I had to come back. And I did. This past year I served as the Director for the same camp I participated in the year before. I realized that working with kids and learning how to help underprivileged individuals was more than just a hobby, it was a passion. In January I signed up for the Peace Corps because I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted a permanent Coach for College position. Anna Roberts, UNC Softball, CFC Coach Summer 2010, and CFC Director, Summer 2011

5 Ashley Owens Rand, Va Tech Women’s Soccer, CFC Coach Summer 2009
[In Coach for College] I got to travel abroad with some of my friends and I had the opportunity to meet other student athletes from ACC schools who became my friends and who I still keep in touch with via Facebook. I also had the chance to work with some of the sweetest and most intelligent Vietnamese college students who also became friends and congratulated me when I got married. As you can imagine, on the day we left, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I was able to work with rising 9th graders and I was able to share with them something that is so important to me, working towards a higher education and playing sports. Athletics is something that I have been involved with since I was 7 years old. Sports helped me achieve my goals of a higher education and they helped me learn about team work, leadership, confidence, and the importance of being a part of something bigger than myself. Those same things that sports and soccer in particular provided for me, Coach for College did as well. I was able to learn about patience, about leadership and team work, and about the importance of giving back and working towards a common goal. The great thing about CFC is that all of those things I learned during my experience in Vietnam I use every day and I will continue to use in the future. I am currently in nursing school and when I work with clients, I think back to my years at VT and at those three weeks I spent in Vietnam. It enables me to provide more culturally sensitive care to those clients. I am patient with my clients, I work better with the health care team because I know how important it is in helping a patient reach their goals, I am constantly working towards providing my clients with the most holistic care possible, and I always try to maintain that smile and eagerness those kids showed me the first day I stepped into a classroom in Vietnam. Ashley Owens Rand, Va Tech Women’s Soccer, CFC Coach Summer 2009

6 Betsy Nilan, UVA Women’s Rowing, CFC Coach, Summer 2011
The kids never told me directly that I changed their lives, but I could see in their eyes that I did. I am very positive they changed my life and the lives of the other coaches and teachers I was with as well. Leaving Vietnam and the schoolchildren in Hoa An was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. Looking back, it’s crazy to believe I was able to form such a close bond with these kids when we couldn’t even speak the same language. My experience taught me that actions speak louder than words—that you could learn so much about people by just spending time with them, playing games with them, and by living how they do… Canh, one of the 8th grade boys was a quiet and down to earth boy in my morning class. He came in everyday with his workbook in hand ready to listen to whatever I was ready to teach that day. One afternoon, we encouraged the kids to “reach for the stars” and told them they could do anything they wanted if they set their mind to it. With this lesson, we told them stories from our lives at school that would relate and help promote higher education. We told them that it might not be easy, but that the best things in life didn’t come easy. I told them the story of how my rowing team at UVA trained and practiced everyday and finally after all our hard work we ended up winning a huge national competition. That competition was NCAA’s, and because of that my team got to meet President Obama and then we got classy championship rings. Canh thought it was the coolest thing ever— he stood up and gasped. He immediately wanted to shake my hand because he knew that President Obama, ten months earlier, had also shaken my hand. His face said it all. I could tell from that moment on he was determined to make something like that happen in his life. I thought about Cahn for a long time, and realized that he probably has never heard real stories like that before. I have never seen a child so genuinely happy for someone else’s success. Betsy Nilan, UVA Women’s Rowing, CFC Coach, Summer 2011

7 Amy Sargeant, FSU Women’s Tennis, CFC Coach, Summer 2011

8 Brittany Burns, Clemson Women’s Rowing, CFC Coach, Summer 2011
In the middle of the second week, Kahn, an excellent student from the yellow team, and I started something very small and meaningless at the time, but is now something I will never forget the feeling of. As coaches, we would cross the bridge and walk through the gates towards the school for the afternoon session. Immediately Kahn would stop playing with his friends and run full speed towards me. I would also run towards him and we would embrace in the biggest hug. We would speak the only English he knew, “Hello, how are you?” and “I am fine.” Although a hug and these few simple words are so meaningless in our daily lives, they brightened my day then, and they still do today.…I knew the language barrier would be a difficult task to deal with while being in Vietnam, and I was right. I thought I would not be able to connect or build relationships with the people in Vietnam due to the language barrier, and I was wrong. It is so easy and rewarding to connect with someone simply by giving a hug or high five, learning a few words in Vietnamese, teaching them a word or two in English, or even just smiling. This taught me that actions really do speak louder than words and speaking is not always our most effective way of communication…. Since returning home from my experience in Vietnam, I feel that I have changed so much as a person. A simple example would be that I try to complain a lot less. I’ve always been known to be quite the complainer, but the small problems I have that I used to complain about seem not worth it. These problems are so small and meaningless in the big picture. My complaints about not being able to decide what to eat for lunch would be a gift to these children. Another change I have noticed about myself is that I am always thinking of ideas and ways to help these children. The other day I almost threw away a pair of sneakers that I found useless, but quickly thought to save them and see if I can somehow collect shoes to bring to the children in Vietnam. Brittany Burns, Clemson Women’s Rowing, CFC Coach, Summer 2011

9 Erika Alpeter, NC State Women’s Track and Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011
As an aspiring high school math teacher, I am so fortunate to have been able to receive the opportunity to teach in another country. It has not only made me appreciate all the resources we have at our fingertips here in America, but I learned skills in teaching I could not have learned any other way. The first two weeks I taught physics and I would say a phrase or two and Van, Linh, or Russnan would translate it to the kids for me. I had learned what to write and how to animate myself, as well as the kids had become accustomed to how I worked, that by the end of the third week we were able to understand each other. I said something, turned to look for someone to translate it, and instead I got a head nod, a smile, and a “they understand.” The kids were all looking at me nodding that they did indeed understand what I had written on the board. I have never felt so proud and accomplished in my life! That moment was amazing, that even though we didn’t speak the same language we were still able to fully understand each other. Truly amazing! Erika Alpeter, NC State Women’s Track and Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011

10 Tom Powers, Univ of Miami Men’s Baseball, CFC Coach, Summer 2011
I believe I have been successful in inspiring my Vietnamese students to follow their dreams, and in motivating them to achieve more. By the end of the camp, all of the kids could easily answer the question of what they wanted to be. Some of them still said Doctors and teachers, which are truly noble professions, but many kids started to think differently. I had girls and boys who wanted to be lawyers, bankers, engineers, police officers and entrepreneurs. More impressive were the reasons they gave for wanting these careers. One boy told me he wanted to be a biological-engineer so that he could invent new techniques to improve farming in Vietnam and help his family and community. Another girl told me she wanted to be a banker because she loved math and wanted to make money so her family didn’t have to work anymore. I hope that I was able to teach the kids a lot, but more importantly I hope I inspired them. Three weeks was not enough time for me to teach them everything they need to know to accomplish their goals, but if I was successful in motivating them, they will take it upon themselves to continue to learn and continue to dream…[On the last day] we got into our bus to leave the school, but to everyone’s surprise, the kids had locked the gate so we wouldn’t leave. Eventually someone found the key and unlocked the gate, but what happened next was even more amazing. With the gate open, the kids from our camp stood in formation in front of the bus to block the road. I was very impressed with this display. For three weeks I had been telling the kids to stand up for what they believe in, and to actively pursue their dreams, and now here they were literally standing down a bus. These kids were not afraid, and now they stood, together, for a single cause. I was incredibly proud. Tom Powers, Univ of Miami Men’s Baseball, CFC Coach, Summer 2011

11 Michael Catalino, Duke Men’s Lacrosse, CFC Coach Summer 2009
Nam was the captain of my morning Orange Team. As the days passed I felt closer and closer to Nam even though we never could say much to each other. He began as just a student, but developed into a leader. On the last day of teaching, I encouraged the kids from the morning session to come in the afternoon to hang out and practice volleyball for the games the following day. Nam came and hung out with me for the entire day. I could see his maturity, I could sense his value of relationships, and I could feel his presence as a friend. It could have been the fact he just loved being near me, watching me, and letting me know he cared about what we were doing in his life. On the last day of competitions he emptied his tank, and was frustrated when we struggled. He was joyous when he found out we placed 2nd, and finally, he was in tears when he realized his coaches were leaving for good…I had learned there was a huge difference between the understanding I had of communities in the third world from reading about them in a textbook or in the news compared to the real life experience I gained in Vietnam and South Africa. It was hard for me to really understand without feeling the Vietnamese kids’ embrace, seeing their smiles and tears, sharing their frustrations, and experiencing life with them. I can’t say that I did know a lot about the Vietnamese culture before I decided to go Vietnam, but the sad part was, I didn’t care to. I was so caught up in my own business that I did not even think to consider those who are not privileged with million dollar practice facilities and sports stardom, if my team even had any of these, I was taking them for granted. Going to Vietnam made me consider those less fortunate and will not let me forget what I experienced. It made me examine my life as a student-athlete. Michael Catalino, Duke Men’s Lacrosse, CFC Coach Summer 2009

12 Christie Barnes, Duke Women’s Lacrosse, CFC Coach Summer 2010
We visited one of the student’s homes after camp [one day]. Hua’s home was a small shack made of sticks that was located along a small stream. There was a bed that was shared by the whole family of four kids, a mother and a father. The floor had no fancy tiling or carpet; it was merely the ground. There were barely any possessions in the home. In fact, the most prominent things were the certificates of the Coach for College program that the children of the house had earned in the past. Hua’s home epitomized “bare necessities”. Despite this lack of material goods, the family showed an immense commitment and support to one another. When the middle aged boy in the family played one of our directors in chess in the front of the home (and beat him in less than five minutes ), the whole family was there to watch and cheer him on. It may seem like a small feat, but to me, it embodied how having less allowed this family to give each other more in emotional and loving support. No one was busy immersed in their technologies or drowned by their toys. Instead, everyone was fully present to one another. This community embodied to me how sometimes having less allows you to give more. So often in the U.S., our obsession with gaining more material goods leads us to forget the importance of creating a trusting community. Life becomes a struggle to gain in excess instead of to give of ourselves in abundance. Christie Barnes, Duke Women’s Lacrosse, CFC Coach Summer 2010

13 I simply cannot say enough about the integrity of the Vietnamese college students whom I worked with. They are simply outstanding individuals whom I am honored to be good friends with. Thus, leaving Vietnam at the end of the program was terribly depressing. I remember saying "goodbye" to my new friends thinking that I would never see them again. I had never had an experience like that previously. It is odd to consider that one may never see a good friend again…For the next year, I corresponded regularly with my closest Vietnamese friends: Luong, Nam, and Phuong. I usually called some time after midnight several times a week. Suffice to say, I used up many international calling cards. Somehow, these Vietnamese people whom I met in CFC became my closest friends. We chatted about life, our futures, good things, bad things, and everything in between. Our friendships solidified during that year…During the summer between my junior and senior years, I had the opportunity to visit Vietnam [again] on a vacation for two weeks. I traveled back to Can Tho to visit my friends. On my first day back in Can Tho, someone arranged a dinner with every single CFC person from my camp. I was astonished to see everyone again, let alone at a single dinner table. No one had ever done anything like that for me ever before except for family members for birthday dinners. It felt really good to know that the bond created by Coach for College was strong and had survived a year…. [That trip I was also] invited to a lunch at the home of two of the high school students whom I had worked with. I was so happy to see around fifteen of the students whom I had taught the previous summer. I honestly did not expect to see more than a few when I visited. Also, the kids were wearing their old CFC shirts. I was proud to see a few of the students from my green team there. This experience really proved to me that I had done something meaningful for the kids. Otherwise, I don't think they would have gone out of their ways to see me. David Eitel, Duke Men’s Fencing, CFC Coach Summer 2008 and CFC Director Summer 2010

14 Devin Cornwall, Va Tech Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011
There was a little boy named Dien who I developed a bond with over the span of the program. We came up with a very complex handshake that we would continue to do with each other up until the very last day of the program….During the very first week, while we were introducing the idea of continuing on to higher education after grade school, he answered very confidently that he wouldn’t be going on to college after school because he would need to help his family in the rice paddies…. The final day of the program was filled with t-shirt signatures and tears…Right before we were to head out for the hotel and leave for Ho Chi Minh I felt a tapping on my shoulder. I turned to find Dien standing in front of me with a Vietnamese coach at his side. Tears were running down over the no longer dimpled cheeks I had seen flashing across the courts and ducking behind papers. He strung together some Vietnamese through muffled sobs to the coach beside him and waited patiently, wiping at the tears covering his face with the sleeve of his shirt, while the coach translated for him. Dien told me that ‘he would try as hard as he could to study and learn in order to go on to college. He wouldn’t give up until he’d made it.’ And even though I felt, at the time, like I had failed to reach through to the kids on a larger scale, I realized that these things, these lessons and long-term decisions that impact the rest of our lives often start in the smallest of places. And as we drove off and I watched Dien’s face disappear in the mass of crying students, I swore that I would always remember his promise and the lessons I had gained from it. For when someone makes a promise to you concerning the betterment of their life – and in no way am I demeaning the life of farmers anywhere, as they are even more vital to our survival than any corporate executive – it is usually because you have allowed them to see a part of themselves that they had not envisioned, or planned. And in these moments of reflection, we are able to slowly and ever so gently change the world around us. Devin Cornwall, Va Tech Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011

15 Emily Charnowski, Boston College Women’s Rowing, CFC Coach Summer 2011
What made Coach for College so unique in my opinion was the central role that sports played in the program. As an athlete I am a firm believer in the many benefits that can result from sports. So many skills which are fostered through sports can be transferred to other life situations and positively influence youth. At the beginning of the camp, many of the children seemed disinterested in playing sports, especially the girls. As the camp went on though, the students gradually showed more and more of an interest in them. The way in which the students were divided into four different color teams helped to cultivate both teamwork and competition. The competitions were set up as relays or team events so that it was necessary to work together in order to succeed. I noticed that my team, the yellow team, picked up on that immediately and quickly joined together and unified themselves as a group, ultimately helping them win the overall team competition. We taught the students cheers and chants to say to support their team and the frequency by which they used these represents the pride that they had for their team. My team’s favorite cheer was one in which we would huddle together and then break it down by saying, “Một, hai, ba... Vàng, Vàng, Vàng, Vàng.” We also taught them to say “the yellow team is number one” in English in response to somebody asking them who was number one and they loved doing that. All of these cheers fueled a rivalry between the different colors, creating a healthy competition between the teams. It helped them to learn the value of having others around to push you to work harder and go beyond your limits. Emily Charnowski, Boston College Women’s Rowing, CFC Coach Summer 2011

16 Haley Hemm, UNC Women’s Tennis, CFC Coach Summer 2011
I didn’t want to leave Vietnam. And I especially did not want to leave Hoa An. Hoa An had become my home. My family was there. From Co Sau, the grandmother who made me café sua da in the morning, to the little girl who would run up to me and give me hugs to the American and Vietnamese coaches who become my best friends, never have I felt so much love in my life. It was real. It was genuine….As our bus pulled away from camp [on the last day], all of the kids hopped on their bikes for a second time and those who did not have bikes began to run after our bus. This was preceded by hours of tears, countless hugs, “I miss you” and “I love you” in broken English. Even the toughest most athletic boys could not keep it in…Moments like this in Vietnam made me realize that communication is so much more than verbal. I could maybe speak one hundred Vietnamese words or phrases by the end of my trip, but that did not matter. I could communicate with my eyes, my hands, my smile, my enthusiasm and energy. The relationships I developed with the 8th grade boys and girls were probably some of the most honest and pure relationships I have developed because language was not there to muddle them up. I would bring my enthusiasm, over exaggeration, loud voice, crazy arm motions and dance moves to the tennis court and the English classroom and in return the kids would bring me their utmost attention, gratitude, love of learning, effort, personalities and homemade grass and flower jewelry everyday. And we went from there…Coach for College confirmed for me how much I love sports, teaching and people. This is what I want to do. Whatever impact I had on the Vietnamese coaches or students, they had triple the impact on me. I learned so much about life, the world and myself in the short three weeks I was there. Haley Hemm, UNC Women’s Tennis, CFC Coach Summer 2011

17 If you were to ask a UNC athlete what their favorite college sport moment was, you would probably hear about a national championship game. You might hear about an unbelievable comeback or even about grueling morning practices that were only survived because they could complain to their teammates. If you asked me what my favorite college sports moment was, you would be shocked to hear that it included celebrating with someone from Duke. Yes, Duke… [In Coach for College] I was assigned to the Blue Team and co-coached with Reka, a Duke tennis player. We instantly became friends and discovered we had a lot more in common than we thought. She and I had fun trying to explain sports idioms and expressions like seeing the glass as half full. I was also assigned to teach physics with Ben, a Duke runner….We began with little steps. Team building activities like tying the team members together with a jump rope and having them walk across the basketball court as a group. We were trying to help the children understand teamwork and communication but these activities were confusing to the children at first. Even after explaining that they had to work together as a team to be successful, I was still met with blank stares. I couldn’t help but laugh when my team decided not to work together but instead to each run in their own direction and ultimately fall. It was only after they failed that they realized how important it was to work together…. At the end of the competition day there was an awards presentation. Each team was called up with their coaches to receive certificates for participating. When it came time to announce the overall winner I was thrilled to hear my Blue Team had won first place! Reka and I were speechless. The team rushed to the front to get their prizes. That was my favorite sports memory from my time at UNC. Sure, I had my share of comebacks and victories, upsets and titles but none of them brought the same joy as that moment in Vietnam. Jessica Wacker, UNC Women’s Fencing, CFC Coach Summer 2008 and CFC Director Summer 2009

18 Kyle McCartan, Boston College Men’s Golf, CFC Coach Summer 2011
Linh is a sixth grader participant in the Coach for College program and he was my favorite student. Herein lies a problem though….I didn’t teach sixth grade, I taught ninth grade…. This kid was so happy to come to Coach for College camp. He was so excited that he came a month early (his camp was at the end of the summer) and used to hang out with us all day…Linh and I formed a deep relationship. I enjoyed his practical jokes and embraced him as my new coach. I told him that if he wanted to be a part of our program that I was going to put him to work. He loved it. He followed me around all day helping me prepare for my next activity. I would say Linh “bong ro” and he would head over to the equipment room and pick up the bag of basketballs. He buzzed about as he set up cones with me and then after he enthusiastically cleaned up. He enjoyed the clean up process way more than expected. First of all, I found that the Vietnamese children are expected to clean the teacher’s classroom—(an idea I believe that America should adopt for the record.) Secondly, he knew that after clean up he would be able to carry my backpack up to the morality classroom. Linh strapped on my backpack and would head up to class before me. Also, he would always fill up my water bottle before each activity. I thought this was stellar as he kept me hydrated. I later found out a week later as we were sitting in my morality class together that my water bottle had become Linh’s water bottle after he naturally grabbed it and took a huge swig. He saw me as family and family members share everything they have in Vietnam. I admired that in Linh. Linh reminded me of the strength of relationships, especially family relationships. Kyle McCartan, Boston College Men’s Golf, CFC Coach Summer 2011

19 Keith Ricks, Va Tech Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011
As a track and field student athlete at Virginia Tech, most of my time is dominated by my sport. My exposure to the world outside the United States was limited to Pan American Games in Trinidad and Tobago…Becoming a role model and mentor for the disadvantaged youths in Vietnam was one of my greatest accomplishments. One day in my team building class, we were discussing what the students wanted to be when they grew up. I had each of them stand up and tell the class what their dreams and goals were in life. One student stood up and said, “I want to study really hard and go to college so I can become a doctor to help my family out financially.” This student was one of the smartest students in the class. She displayed a great deal of motivation and dedication to accomplishing her academic goals. However, I knew this would be a great challenge for her because her family could not afford to send her to school. I encouraged her to not give up on her goals and that she could try to earn scholarships to pay for her education. I explained to her that my athletic scholarship allowed me the opportunity to attend a great university in the ACC…During my time teaching at the CFC program, I noticed the transformation of many of the students from being mild to outgoing and [having] a sense of purpose. Through the team competitions at the camps, the students worked together and selected their leaders to help them win. Seeing the students develop into leaders was a great accomplishment for me. As coaches and athletes we were able to show the students that sports leadership and dedication helped many of us gain college scholarships in many major universities in the United States. I expressed to the students that my hard work on the track field has given me the opportunity to earn a college degree at Virginia Tech and be a leader in my community. I was able to teach the students about being a leader and working as a team through sports. Keith Ricks, Va Tech Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011

20 The work ethic of these twelve year olds was mind-boggling
The work ethic of these twelve year olds was mind-boggling. Not all of them excelled in each subject and sport, but they all tried. They paid attention, followed along in the workbook, did the assigned exercises during a sports lesson, and they took their time on the exams. In addition to all of this, they were appreciative beyond all belief. We brought in prizes of all sorts—pencils, pens, stickers, silly bands and everything in between and they jumped for joy when they gave a correct answer and received a gift. Each day I found myself making notes about the kids, about their abilities and talents. During an early life-skills lesson, we were helping the kids set short-term goals in academics and sports for the duration of camp. Instead of giving us the expected responses of winning a game, or winning overall, the students told us their life dreams. A note I wrote about them follows: I think it is great to have the students set camp goals for school and sports, but it’s equally important that they build lifelong goals. The AM Tigers chose goals like becoming a great football player, coach, or student at a University. Even the girls said they wanted to continue going to school, in order to support a family. Multiple students said they don’t want to become a blue-collar worker— and for me that is terrifying for two reasons. For one, they know the term ‘blue-collar’ at such a young age, but secondly they are afraid of turning out that way. What can I do as a teacher to help them stay on track? Build trust. Motivate. Give advice. And just about anything else that comes to mind. Lauren Phipps, Univ of Miami Women’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011

21 Lauren Prussing, UNC Women’s Volleyball, CFC Coach Summer 2008
Coach for College was transformative on many levels for me, and even enabled me to use my platform as a collegiate athlete to make a tangible difference in young peopleʼs lives. I felt purposeful, effective, even loved. I loved the time we spent in Vietnam with the middle school students and kids from the community who showed up every day to be a part of this special program. As a teacher of the health class at Hoa An Secondary School, I found that many of the lessons had very real and immediate applications in the students’ lives. They were able take home these health lessons each day and share them with their family and friends, therefore spreading knowledge and improving the health of others who were not even in the Coach for College program. Especially important to me was ingraining in my students the health risks of using tobacco products because a very high percentage of the adult population smoked cigarettes. We devoted an entire lesson to studying the negative effects of tobacco on the body. It was also amazing to see how excited the students were as we taught basic anatomy and directly applied that information to their everyday lives. We asked the students which major muscle groups they used when they went outside to kick a soccer ball or swing their tennis racket, then taught them exercises they could do to strengthen those muscles. We had so much fun with the pushup competitions inside the classroom! Coming from a very rigid school structure, this new participatory method of learning was something they had never imagined. Earlier in the week we had introduced the students to RICE - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation - a useful teaching tool for treating injury. The youth were tickled by this acronym, as rice is a major part of their diet and agriculture plays a leading role in the lives of rural Vietnamese families. After one of the students injured his ankle playing soccer, I felt a sense of accomplishment when the students knew exactly what to do as a result of our health class. Lauren Prussing, UNC Women’s Volleyball, CFC Coach Summer 2008

22 Upon reflection, my role could have been and initially was frustrating
Upon reflection, my role could have been and initially was frustrating.  However it became extremely enlightening, particularly worthwhile, and made the assets of international outreach tangible.  By working with Vietnamese college students who came from the very similar situations as many of the children in the camp, I realized that I was witnessing a society in transition with competing ideologies at work in nearly every aspect of the culture.  It was not that the children did not aspire to lead positive and worthwhile lives; rather it was that they were bred on concepts that were entirely foreign to me, and they were just beginning to realize the true potential that they possessed.  First, I had to fully grasp this reality.  Then I had to work closely and diligently with the Vietnamese coaches each night preceding class to try to explain and clarify the lesson plans and accompanying concepts.  During this process, and with the Vietnamese coach feedback often times I was able to identify what topics might be particularly tricky for the students to understand.  I then worked to modify how we addressed the lesson, and how we could best lead the kids.  This took tremendous time and effort, but I discovered that because of the passion I felt for the children, I was not just willing to extend this effort but rather I was excited to.  As a coach, I was able to help motivate the students to attain and fully actualize their potential; this is what has motivated my continued support of Coach for College since my initial involvement…In fact, as someone who aspires toward a career in medicine, I am confident that my involvement with Coach for College will continue to inspire my involvement in international outreach as a medical student and physician…I am confident that Coach for College will continue to influence and guide my experiences each and every day.       Linzee Mabrey, UNC Women’s Tennis, CFC Coach Summer 2009 and CFC Director Summer 2010

23 Luke Stowers, FSU Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011
I’ve been asked time and time again to identify my favorite moment from my time with Coach for College. I could go with celebrating July 4th with the Vietnamese and singing karaoke (a favorite pastime in Vietnam); I could write about time spent on an island with the other coaches, laying out on hammocks and wading through the water; or I could spend time on learning to bargain and touring through Can Tho, seeing a Buddhist Temple and the Mekong River. The greatest moment however came on a regular day of classes. We began to teach our afternoon lesson of Life Skills (typically a class involving finances, teamwork, or leadership) when a monsoon came and subsequently began to cover the entire world (or so it seemed at the time) with sheets upon sheets of rain. Rather than stay in classes, we decided to go outside and play sports. So we threw off our shoes and began sprinting through puddles and rain, having the time of our lives. In that hour or two of rain, the students and coaches came together as we hadn’t believed possible. Suddenly, the language and cultural barriers meant nothing; we looked to each other and knew exactly what the others were thinking. My yellow team and I decided to take on all comers in basketball, playing as a true team for the first time, and so it came as no surprise when they took first place as the overall best team a few weeks later. Maybe that day we didn’t actually learn the academics that we were supposed to, but we learned something far more important: teamwork, sportsmanship, encouragement, how to communicate, to have a great attitude when everything seems bad around you, and to sometimes relax and live! That one time may have been the most important in inspiring them to go to university just because of the bond that they developed with us college students. Through rain and sports, Vietnamese and Americans became truly united despite differences in income, government, language, upbringing and education, and we finally understood what the entire program was for. Luke Stowers, FSU Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011

24 Megan Strawther, Va Tech Women’s Soccer, CFC Coach Summer 2010
When I recall my experience volunteering abroad in Vietnam through the College for College program, I am overcome with a great sense of appreciation. My recollection of this unique country in Southeast Asia is splattered with bright images, robust smells and memories of hot, stale air that stuck to my skin like a permanent coat. I think of the children we taught, with their infectious laughter and smiles, hoping we could help them with their English and teach them things about America, a place they would probably never get to see. I think of the bluest skies and the whitest, fullest clouds I have ever seen, and the rainbows after the heavy rain, where the thunder rumbled and the lightning cracked so loud I thought the sky would split open. I think of people fishing and bathing in the tributaries of the Mekong River, the source of life in this rural community that we called “home” for three, short weeks. I think of the strange and delicious fruit, so colorful, unusual and necessary to get us through those long, sweltering days. I think of the luscious landscape and the winding roads in the beautiful jungles peppered with honking scooters and buses, driven by people who had no concept of red lights, green lights, yields or lanes…My favorite part of the program was (attempting) to communicate with the children. Although we did not speak the same language, we laughed together, sang songs together, played together and cried together the day we had to say goodbye….It is through these connections, not only with the students I taught, but with the Vietnamese coaches from Can Tho University, my fellow student-athlete volunteers, program directors and contributors to my fundraising efforts that made this entire experience such a special one. Regardless of where you are from, how much money you have, what color your hair and skin, what sport you play or what language you speak, we learned that anyone can be your friend, or at least an important part of your life, even if you may never see them again. Megan Strawther, Va Tech Women’s Soccer, CFC Coach Summer 2010

25 Upon my return [from Vietnam the first summer], I was back in the world of the plan. Academic work ("Please outline the overall structure of your essay") and athletic obligations ("Workout plan for indoor track season: add mileage while maintaining speed") were stolidly strategic. I had tasted the tactical, and I couldn't get enough. The minute-to-minute challenges of Vietnam were no longer present. It was during this phase that I began to work even closer with Parker, in anticipation of another summer in Vietnam. I was fortunate enough to return to Vietnam in January 2009, when I assisted in collecting post-camp interviews from students, teachers, and local government officials that informed our plan for the next summer. I returned in July 2009 as a director of the program, reporting to Parker on all matters pertaining to—well, just about everything. I would interview our American student-athletes, coordinate fundraising, train our new coaches, plan their flights, schedule and administer weekend trips, and basically do anything that needed to get done. Although it hurt to no longer be in front of students in a classroom like I had been the summer before, I was now a full-time problem solver, scheduler, scoring-system-deviser, and tactician-in-chief. If 2008 was my first exposure to the challenges of Vietnam, 2009 was my victory lap. By the end of August 2008, I had spent nearly three of the last thirteen months of my life in Vietnam. Pho looked less like a curious ethnic dish and more like leftovers.  Ben Bubnovich, Duke Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2008 and CFC Director Summer 2009

26 One day I found myself in conversation with our bus driver, Minh, and got up the courage to ask the question that had been on my mind throughout the whole trip thus far – why did the Vietnamese treat me and other Americans as if nothing negative had ever transpired between these two nations and cultures? Minh was able to relate to me that, quite simply, the Vietnamese have chosen to move on and look to the future instead of dwell on the past. In the United States, Minh suggested, there is too much emphasis on mistakes made and negative incidents….As the Coach for College program continued in Vietnam, I spent additional time talking with and learning from Minh. Despite our age difference (he nearing 50, and I only 22), our inability to speak the same language, and our very different backgrounds, Minh and I shared countless laughs and stories. Sometimes Minh would tell me about his family, and I would learn to appreciate my family even more. Other times Minh would teach me about friendship and loyalty by telling me about his own friends. On one weekend trip, after an especially enjoyable night of storytelling, I learned how much snake wine I am able to tolerate. The most important lesson Minh taught me was about kindness and generosity. In this case, Minh presented me with a jar of snake wine that held a special place in his heart. Instead of the normal store bought bottles, this jar had been made by his father almost 40 years earlier and had been buried in the ground to ferment. After 30 years it was dug up to be enjoyed by family and close friends on the most special of occasions. Even though Minh and I had known each other for less than one month, Minh offered to share this special memory of his father with me. Through this action, Minh taught me the importance of being kind and generous to all individuals I encounter, and not solely those that are the most central to my life. Sean-Patrick Oswald, Duke Men’s Track & Field, CFC Coach and Director Summer 2011

27 I haven’t been to Vietnam for over two years now
I haven’t been to Vietnam for over two years now.  The further in time I get from Coach for College summers, the more I realize how important they were in setting the stage for both my career and my outlook on the world…Participating in the Coach for College program solidified my interest in international development and gave me confidence in my abilities to work in the international setting.  Today I work in developing countries conducting health surveys around the world.  Not only did my Vietnam experience function as a major component in my qualifications for my work, but I use lessons I learned teaching and as a director in my everyday work.  Training and working with local staff is a major component of my work abroad…My experience in Vietnam and other developing countries that I’ve had the privilege to visit has left me with a strong sense of social responsibility.  I think those of us who travel have an obligation to educate those who haven’t on the realities of the world. It’s our responsibility to let others know about the struggles people endure for things like access to education, healthcare, and that electricity and clean water are a privilege the developed world takes for granted…Just one of many take-a-ways from my experiences in Vietnam was my realization of the importance of family.  The family unit is very strong in Vietnamese culture.  I remember talking with the Vietnamese college coaches about how living far from home was common in the United States, and how I preferred to live with my friends.  One of the coaches could not understand this; why would I choose to not be with my family?.  Since that summer I have made it a priority to stay in better touch with my extended family.  I call my grandparents every other week now.  I am playing an active role in the lives of my younger cousins.  It’s something I wish I had started doing years before.  I owe my relationship with my grandparents and other family members to those insightful conversations with the Vietnamese college coaches – a conversation that never would have happened without the Coach for College program.    Shawna Kelly, UNC Women’s Gymnastics, CFC Coach Summer 2008 and CFC Director Summer 2009

28 Ashley Calhoun, FSU Women’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011
As I emerged into the courtyard of the school, kids surrounded me. They took hold of me and held on with everything they had, it was the last day of competition, the second to last day I was going to see them. As we met in our classrooms to deliver the final pep talk, the kids sat anticipating what we were going to say with their little eyes filling with tears. They were exceptionally sad that we were leaving their lives and a void in their hearts. As you try to muster up the courage to suck it up and start speaking, my eyes slowly filled with tears. We gave them support as they went into their first tests and continued on throughout the day to support them. When they entered their first competition they played with heart and wanted to do everything like they did in practice to ensure they had the correct technique. They gave everything they had in their competitions and test because they wanted to make us proud, they wanted to show us that they learned what we taught them and were taking it with them wherever they go in life. This is the point in time that I knew I had made that special impact on them that I wanted to. Having numerous amount of kids worship you every day when you walk in the courtyard of the school is such an uplifting experience. Going through life you never know the impact you have on people or the degree of impact you can have on a bunch of people, but seeing your ideals and actions coming out through someone else is such an amazing part of the experience. Making a difference in someone else’s life by helping them become a better version of themselves is something everyone should experience because it is so amazing to watch unfold before your eyes. Ashley Calhoun, FSU Women’s Track & Field, CFC Coach Summer 2011

29 Erika Theisen, Maryland Women’s Soccer, CFC Coach Summer 2011
There was one boy in particular named Van, who I had created a bond with from the start. He was one of the children who would always come up to me to play soccer outside of class, and in particular, would always have me teach him individually. I took a special interest in him because he already had very decent soccer skills and a passion for the sport, that I wanted to teach him more advanced skills that were more on his level. The last day I saw the children I had received many heart-warming notes, but he had given me a note that really got to me. The note translated to English read, “You are a funny girl and play soccer very well. You make me feel very happy in situations. I’ll miss you a lot (so much), Erika. You are a believable sister. I wish you can get your goals into this happy life.” Knowing that I had such an impact in this young child’s life was the most rewarding and incredible feeling I think I have ever experienced in my lifetime. Words cannot begin to describe just how unbelievably heart warming and invigorating that feeling was and still is. My entire experience with Coach For College was indescribable. Not even this short excerpt does my experience with Coach For College justice. The relationships I made with the rest of the children and the American and Vietnamese coaches, what I learned about the Vietnamese culture and what I learned about myself has impacted my life a great deal. I have learned to appreciate the opportunities I have been given, to cherish the relationships I have made, and the never-ending reward of giving and helping others, especially to those that are less fortunate. My journey with Coach For College was truly an invaluable experience and I am nothing but grateful to of had the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible program. Erika Theisen, Maryland Women’s Soccer, CFC Coach Summer 2011

30 I know I can't be any help to CFC in my present location and work but I can say a big part of where I am now is because of CFC. I live in a small village of 500 people close to Sierra Leone and work at a government high school. Living and working in the rural area presents enormous challenges. Honestly, where we were in Vietnam is significantly more developed than most of Liberia. My experience in Vietnam served as a stepping stone to the challenges that I face here working in rural Liberia. CFC showed me I could have a positive impact on people in different cultures and cross boundaries I never knew were there. Even though the experience of CFC is only a short four weeks I believe it will live with everyone who participates in it for the rest of their lives; coaches, students, and directors. Andy Brake, UNC Men’s Swimming & Diving, CFC Coach Summer 2009 and CFC Director Summer 2010

31 Jarrett Rodrigues, UNC Men’s Fencing, CFC Coach Summer 2009
We often travel without any idea where it will take us. This area [near the CFC camp] was not the Vietnam I had been introduced to in the airport, or greeted with as we waited for the bus. The sights and colors and smells of this area of the country overwhelmed me. It took me by surprise and made me contemplate the experience, a feeling I would become familiar with throughout the trip…. Our trip [from the airport to the site of the camp] concluded after hours, finally arriving at our accommodations late in the evening, but our journey would continue for many more weeks. The time I spent teaching and interacting with the children who attended the camp was powerful and I felt that I had a real impact on their lives, but for me this was not the most impactful part of my experience with Coach for College. The opportunity to travel changed me. It helped grow my perception of the world outside the lines of my sport and my country. Often times, athletes lack the opportunity to experience travel abroad programs while in school. Granted, this is a sacrifice many athletes are willing to make, but the structure of the program allows flexibility like no other. The program gave me a king’s ransom in experiences and taught me the joy of pushing my boundaries. And, while the idea of waking up in a different place than I went to sleep in has lost some of its luster, the immersion and escape of travel has guided my life. I now work as a consultant and travel nearly every week. This allows me to work with new people and experience different areas of the country. I hope to continue to maintain employment that allows me to work with different people in different places. No matter where I go, I’m always seeking that immersive, transcendent experience like my first 48 hours in Vietnam. Jarrett Rodrigues, UNC Men’s Fencing, CFC Coach Summer 2009

32 I remember filling out the pre-camp Coach for College surveys prior to traveling to Vietnam and suddenly realizing how truly little I knew about the country in terms of its history, economics, governmental system, and even cultural values. I understood to an extent that the United States had a rocky history with Vietnam. The Vietnam War had been the first war in which the US was not on the victorious side. Many Americans were not in support of the US efforts in Vietnam, and many people continue to hold those resentful feelings today as this was the place where thousands died—distant relatives of my own included—in this futile anti-communism effort. By the end of the war, the country had yielded to a communist government under the reign of Ho Chi Minh, a system which still exists to this day. On a more basic level through some basic research, I discovered the predominant religion of Vietnam (Buddhism), some basic phrases, and the topic I was highly concerned about…the food…While this limited prior awareness seems so rudimentary and unprepared, it allowed me to participate in Coach for College free of any expectations of what I would be giving, and gaining, from the program. Beyond the basic template of the program—a three week program in rural Vietnam working with middle-school-aged youth in order to promote higher education through sports—I have gained so much. This includes, but is not limited to: a network of friends and peers in both Vietnam and across the Atlantic Coast Conference, an updated and improved global perspective, an appreciation for my very blessed life back in the US, a desire to work with underprivileged youth at home and abroad, and a realization that I do in fact have the ability to make a difference in others’ lives. Little did I realize how much this experience would truly change my perspective. Kara Wright, UNC Women’s Gymnastics, CFC Coach Summer 2010 and CFC Director Summer 2011


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