By JIL PRICE
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Each year two University of Iowa student-athletes are selected to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children in low-income areas with Coach for College in Vietnam. The service learning program brings together U.S. student-athletes from across the country and Vietnamese students, creating opportunities to have a lasting impact and make a difference.
Junior rower Danielle Bender and senior diver Samantha Wagner, selected through an interview process of interested candidates from the UI, will represent the Hawkeyes this summer in Hoà An and Thu?n Hung, Vietnam, for three weeks beginning in late July. They are two of the 17 American student-athletes who will be a part of the program’s third and final summer session.
While there, the Hawkeyes will provide instruction to junior high students in sixth through ninth grades on life skills, academics, and sports. The Coach for College program focuses on math, physics, biology, and English education, and also features baseball, basketball, volleyball, and soccer skills instruction.
Bender, an education major, will teach math and coach baseball, while Wagner, a biomedical engineering major, will teach physics and coach volleyball.
Both are excited to experience another culture together, build their resumes, and make a difference at the same time. They say the benefits of this opportunity are endless.
“I’m excited because it’s going to throw me so far out of my comfort zone,” Wagner said. “I know I’ll grow from that. To be able to do this and experience a new culture while helping and giving back to kids, will be awesome.”
“This will give me a lot of experience I need and will help prepare me to be a teacher,” Bender said. “It will be challenging because they don’t speak English. We will have a translator, but I’m going to have to be able to get to the point and use gestures to get messages across. Being a little bit uncomfortable in a new culture will change me and help me realize what kind of teacher I want to be.”
While the travel fees for the trip are paid for, Bender and Wagner are responsible for fundraising $1500 to assist in the cost of running the program. Wagner recently headed up a successful fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings, which raised $116, but the duo is still taking donations to reach their goal.
The Hawkeyes see this opportunity as just one of the many benefits they are afforded at the University of Iowa and are grateful for the support the UI athletics department gives to them and to organizations like Coach for College.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and I wouldn’t be able to do this anywhere else,” Bender said. “I have a whole new level of respect for what Iowa does for its student-athletes after immersing myself in athletics as a member of the rowing team.”
To learn more about the Coach for College organization or to make a donation to help Bender and Wagner reach their fundraising goal, visit coachforcollege.org.