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Despite international travel for The Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program (ACE) being canceled for the summer of 2020, the ACE Program launched ACE in Place. Participants recently completed the five-week online engagement experience.

The engagement experience launched June 23rd and participation was voluntary and will not impact the student-athlete’s eligibility for ACE 2021 programming.

ACE in Place featured 34 student-athletes from Duke and Stanford from 26 total varsity sports who were originally accepted in the four programs – ACE in South Africa, ACE in Vietnam, ACE in Peru and ACE in Thailand.

In addition to the 34 participants, eleven ACE Ambassadors served as Peer Ambassador Leaders (PALs) and featured six Blue Devils in Veronica Brtek (cross country, track & field), Mike Ungvarsky (cross country, track & field), Ema Kuczura (rowing), Jillian Wolgemuth (field hockey), Carly Perri (swimming & diving) and Sarah Nelson (volleyball).

ACE in Place was composed of three weekly components via Zoom: skills building and enrichment activities, community building and an optional self-directed community engagement/volunteering.

In the skills building and enrichment activities sessions, a different theme was explored each week that embodies ACE Program values. Participants heard from ACE alums, community partners, faculty, campus public service center staff, and athletic department staff. Topics included discussing the ethics of international service, learning about impact of COVID and international development work in South Africa, introducing the concept of mindfulness and service, and learning about public service careers and post-grad service opportunities.

In the community building sessions, students were divided into five groups led by PALs. Participants met with the same group and PAL leaders each week for the five weeks.  During the weekly meetings, the groups engaged in conversation, built relationships among Duke and Stanford student peers, discussed weekly themes, and reflected on current events.  Participants were able to form unique relationships with other student-athletes who they wouldn’t have had the chance to connect with if it weren’t for ACE in Place and found the support they gained from each other especially important during this challenging time. Many students talked about the community groups provided an opportunity to not only learn more about service, but to reflect on their own personal motivations and purpose in serving others by listening to others’ experiences and beliefs.

Lastly, students were encouraged to pursue self-directed community engagement within their home community or with an organization they’ve previously supported at Duke or Stanford. Weekly volunteer resources were shared via the ACE in Place newsletter.


Click here to view the original Duke Athletics article.


2020 Duke and Stanford Participant and PAL Student Impact Quotes


2020 Duke Participant Quotes:

“ACE in Place gave me a community I could lean on in these uncertain times. I am glad ACE was able to bring us together so we could share our experiences and prepare for a unique year ahead.” – Lucy Callard, Women’s Swimming and Diving

“I learned that impactful service does not mean you have to travel internationally or dedicate your whole life to a cause. Service begins in your own community, but learning how to serve ethically is the greatest challenge whether the service is domestic or international.” – Katie Calvo, Women’s Lacrosse

“Service is not just about going in and saving the world. It is the attitude of humility when one recognizes that they may not know what’s best for that community so they ASK that community.  This allows the two communities to learn the most they possibly can from each other.” – Emily Cole, Women’s Cross Country & Track and Field

“ACE in Place was symbolic of the times we live in: Nothing is going to be perfect, let alone expected, but we have to make the most of it. This emphasis on flexibility is something that was constantly reinforced throughout ACE in Place, a reminder to myself and my fellow ACE participants that we must be willing to accommodate not only our actions but our mindsets and perspectives to an ever-changing world.” – Joe Cullen, Men’s Cross Country & Track and Field

“One of the most impactful insights that I have thought a lot about throughout ACE in Place is how I, as an American, am viewed in other countries. It was something that I naively never gave much thought to, but now, especially in today’s world, realize how important it is to consider.” – Dejanae Davis, Softball

“ACE in Place was a tremendous example of making the most of the cards we’re dealt. It was incredibly exciting to me that I was still able to build relationships with other athletes through ACE this summer despite being stuck in a global Pandemic.” – John Day, Men’s Swimming and Diving

“It was great to learn and discuss the complications with international service. I really learned how I can be both positively and negatively impactful in the communities I enter.” – Kristina Foreman, Softball

“During my time with ACE in Place, I learned that I can still have an impact on my community, at both school and home, even when I cannot directly be involved. By educating myself for the last five weeks, I feel better prepared to play an ethical role in service both at home and abroad.” – Grace Kim, Field Hockey

“The most important lesson I learned during ACE in Place was the importance of being aware of your surroundings and being grateful for everything you have. No matter where you are, you can help and make a difference. You can make change.” – Marykate McGuire, Women’s Soccer

“ACE in Place has taught me that although we may be faced with hardships in life (COVID-19), we can always collaborate with our communities to help outreach to others in need. This summer has provided me with a tremendous amount of insight into self-development, leadership skills, and the ability to collaborate and work effectively in teams.” – Robert Nelson, Football

“The most important lesson I learned during ACE in Place is to always keep an open mind, because situations can change very quickly and learning how to adapt to change is very important. Additionally, building relationships with other student-athletes that I might have never had the chance to connect with helped me to understand different perspectives and network within my peer athletic community.” – Rachel Peroni, Women’s Swimming and Diving

“ACE in Place has become a safe community to discuss both domestic and international problems we are currently facing as well as the ethics of international service. We held important conversations that shared our differences as individuals yet strengthened our unity as athletes.” – Mackenzie Pluck, Women’s Soccer

“My biggest takeaways from ACE in Place are new perspectives and awareness. I got to discuss topics that I hadn’t ever really discussed with anyone else, and it helped me learn a lot not only about my new group of friends but also myself. This new self-awareness and the awareness of my potential impacts on others is something I will keep with moving forward for a long time.” – Will Taylor, Football

“While this experience wasn’t everything that I hoped ACE would be, I’m very grateful to have been a part of this experience and the ACE family. I am so grateful for all of the work Emily and Sean put into this experience to make it what it was.” – Ellie Winslow, Women’s Swimming and Diving

“ACE in Place was a phenomenal interactive experience where we interacted and developed new characteristics and got a look into different avenues and frontiers of service, community, athletics, leadership, and education that I will take on and build upon for the future as not only a student-athlete, but also as a person.” – Jadon Kerry, Men’s Lacrosse

“ACE in Place helped switch my motives for service work from an experience that I would benefit from (while helping others in the process), to a meaningful experience that would have real purpose and help communities in need. I learned a lot about how to approach service work from a practical, and ethical standpoint which I intend to put into use with my next opportunity.” – Griffin Catlett, Men’s Lacrosse

“Through the meetings with Dr. Mlyn and MC, I realized how important it is to not bring the American mindset into service. Not everything America does is best for everyone, and not everyone wants to live the way that we do. We must collaborate with the community and really ask what it is they want from us, rather than coming in with a fixed plan/mindset.” – Caroline Jacobsen, Softball


2020 Stanford Participant Quotes:


“Meaningful service is complex. It takes more than just an urge to help others to do good for a community. It takes self-awareness, awareness of others, and complete understanding of how your service will help.” – Shane Blinkman, Men’s Swimming and Diving

“ACE in Place gave me an opportunity to not only get to know fellow ACE members and Ambassadors, but gave me a place to further my knowledge on different elements of service and global issues. ACE in Place definitely helped to further prepare me to do service in a community different from my own.” – Tatum Boyd, Softball

“I was devastated when ACE was canceled due to COVID, but I’m so glad I was still able to learn about previous student-athletes’ experiences through ACE and meet other people I would’ve gone with. I really enjoyed hearing from the two students from Vietnam that Izzy, Emma, and Tim worked with last summer and hearing them talk about their experiences. It was really cool to see that even a year later Izzy, Emma, and Tim still have that bond originally formed from just three weeks of participating in ACE.” – Holly Campbell, Women’s Volleyball

“ACE in Place fostered a community through the online format that I would have thought impossible at the beginning of summer. They created a balance of close connections between student-athletes at a personal level to an overall sense of group identity, both of which being a safe space to discuss important issues.” – Laurel Foster, Sailing

“ACE in Place has been a unique experience because it has allowed student-athletes from both Duke and Stanford, who are currently living across the world to connect and learn together virtually. During this time of many uncertainties and unknowns, ACE in Place has taught me how to truly have an impact on the world while making sure I am staying true to myself and others.” – Sarah Johnson, Field Hockey  

“I felt that ACE in Place was a great opportunity to continue to improve myself as a student-athlete despite the challenges facing our world right now. Although it was disappointing for everyone to lose the opportunity to engage in service abroad this summer, I believe that ACE in Place better prepared all of us to make an impact in service in the future.” – Andrew Matejka, Men’s Swimming & Diving     

“Due to COVID, everything that I had planned this summer was canceled and my lifestyle was drastically different. ACE in Place was a chance for me to have some sort of structure in my day. I was able to hear from amazing guest speakers, build relationships with other student-athletes, and reflect on my past experiences. I learned a lot during ACE in Place, and I will be able to carry the lessons I learned in my daily life.” – Evelyn Micco, Women’s Gymnastics  

“ACE in Place reminded me that communication with diverse groups of people is the most productive and enriching intellectual experience one can have in this world. Today’s society, tumultuous political climate, and inequity across many demographics can be improved if we learn to empathize with others’ experiences and cultures … and then serve causes bigger than ourselves.” – Lindsey Payne, Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field 

“Though I was sad to not be able to go on my ACE program, ACE in Place was definitely a highlight of my summer – being able to connect and form meaningful relationships with other Stanford and Duke student-athletes. I feel like I have another support system and am excited for us to work together in the future.” – AnaClare Sole, Sailing

“Through the ACE in Place experience, I met a diverse group of student-athletes from different disciplines and experiences.  I feel better prepared to enter the public service realm, and I have realized its importance both in my community and in my personal growth.  I hope to use the knowledge I gained from the ACE in Place experience in my future endeavors both in the program and in my career.”  – Rebecca Story, Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field 

“ACE in Place prompted me to challenge my own preconceived notions of what it means to serve ethically. Rather than impose one’s culture upon someone else, it is much more productive and beneficial to immerse oneself in the other culture and truly listen to what those community members are in need of.” – Dean Stratakos, Men’s Tennis

“After completing ACE in Place, I feel confident in my ability to effectively serve others. I plan on applying to ACE again in 2021 and I think ACE in Place has helped me build a skill set that will allow me to be a better leader, volunteer, and community member.” – Alexandra Suarez, Synchronized Swimming    

“During ACE in Place I was introduced to a new community of like-minded student-athletes who share a passion for both service and athletics. I was able to have meaningful conversations about how to best use my privilege as a Stanford student-athlete to help others in a mindful and effective manner. It was great for me to be able to meet people with similar interests during quarantine and discuss how we can be most effective in these difficult times.” – Kayla Thomas, Rowing       


2020 Duke Peer Ambassador Leader (PAL) Quotes:


“ACE in Place allowed all of us to build relationships during a time where meeting new people is more challenging. This allowed students to create a new community within the two athletic programs when we are all needing to rely on our communities most.” – Veronica Brtek, Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field

“ACE in Place helped me feel a connection to Duke and to my ACE friends during a time where my personal connections were largely lost. I am so happy that I chose to participate in this program because, without it, I would not have spent time with some many friends–new and old. Those meetings with Tim and Isabelle especially helped me remember that I had a network of people who cared about me and were invested in my happiness.” – Ema Kuczura, Rowing

“ACE in Place was a great experience in connecting with others around the nation through similar goals and values of serving communities. It was a special way to have tough conversations, especially during unprecedented times – conversations that are not spoken about very often in a normally busy lifestyle.” – Sarah Nelson, Volleyball

“Through ACE in Place, I was able to recognize just how thankful I am to have been a part of this program and to have had the chance to go to Peru. I am so thankful for my experience and what it has led me to being an Ambassador for ACE.  Especially this summer, this role has helped me reflect more on what I want out of my life and how I want to positively affect others as well.” – Carly Perri, Women’s Swimming & Diving


2020 Stanford Peer Ambassador Leader (PAL) Quotes:


“I’m so glad ACE connected me to friends that share the same values that ACE teaches. Not only was I able to share my love for ethical service, but I got to meet a lot of cool people that are also passionate about ethical service.” – Jordan Fong, Women’s Track and Field    

“The most important thing I learned from ACE in Place was that although the participants and everyone involved were upset about the cancelation of summer programs and their sports season in addition to other things, everyone came together to try to create a community through zoom. This would not have been nearly as successful if the participants did not put in as much effort, so it was really cool to see that everyone involved was willing to put in effort to make this the best experience possible, even if it looked very different from what they originally signed up for.” – Kelsey McGinley, Rowing  

“Through ACE in Place, I truly came to understand the power of the ACE community. Not only are the ACE experiences and lessons life-long but the relationships and connections are real, valuable, and inspiring. During these uncertain times, I loved reconnecting with my ACE peers, building bonds with new ACE members, discussing with directors, and engaging in important group conversations.” – Isabelle Pilson, Field Hockey  

“ACE in Place embodied many of the greater themes of this turbulent year we are all experiencing. During ACE in Place, we connected with fellow student-athletes and explored various public service topics with a focus on self-reflection and purposefulness. We hope that participants will use ACE in Place as a launchpad to continue building upon their new friendships and knowledge about civic engagement.” – Timothy Sah, Men’s Tennis

“My experience as a PAL this summer with ACE in Place showed me the skills needed to be an effective and meaningful leader. But beyond my own experience, I think this program really demonstrated the power of community and connection through Zoom.” – Emily Schultz, Softball