Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For 23 days University of Iowa senior volleyball student-athlete Molly Kelly left Iowa City, the United States, and the western hemisphere for an experience much greater than she had imagined.
On May 24, Kelly flew into Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam. It was the first stop on her way to the Phung Hiep District in the Hau Giang province, where Kelly joined other student-athletes as part of the Coach for College program.
“Coach for College is a program that targets disadvantaged students in rural Vietnam with a summer camp that teach life skills, academics, and sports,” Kelly said. “Student-athletes across the U.S. and Vietnamese students at the university level are paired to teach and coach.”
Kelly, who has 97 matches of volleyball experience under her belt as a Hawkeye, coached volleyball, while teaching English to Vietnamese students.
“Each coach teaches one subject and one sport,” she said.
The Coach for College program encourages Vietnamese students to continue their education throughout high school and into secondary school. The program directly addresses the dropout rate among students, which is over 50 percent in the area.
The program is everything the West Liberty, Iowa, native could have hoped for. Her love for volleyball, traveling, adventure, and much more all collided in Vietnam.
“Everything about Coach for College interested me,” she said. “I love to learn, travel, adventure, meet new people, work with kids, and be challenged. Coach for College embodied all this and much more.
“The camps are designed to empower the students to better their confidence and academics, which directly correlates to the years the students stay in school.”
Despite her short trip to the southern part of the country, Kelly left an impact on her students and they did the same.
“The experience has been much more than I expected,” Kelly said. “I had more emotions and love for the kids than I anticipated, more learning and growing, and more empowerment from the coaches to the kids and the kids to us.”
Kelly left Vietnam on June 14, but she leaves with an experience unlike anything else and high praise for the Coach for College program.
“I recommend any and every student-athlete to participate in Coach for College,” Kelly said. “It truly is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Kelly and her Iowa volleyball teammates, including seven newcomers, return to Iowa City on Monday to gear up for the 2018 season.
The volleyball season begins August 25 in Nashville, Tennessee, against SMU. Season tickets for Iowa’s 11 home matches go on sale on Monday. Visit hawkeyesports.com/tickets or call the UI Athletics Ticket office at 800-IA-HAWKS to purchase your tickets.