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Image Credits to Coach for College

This summer, ACE interviewed each of our 4 current program’s community partners. We asked each community partner to share a bit more about their organization’s beginnings and the impact of COVID-19 on programming. This week, ACE spoke with #ACEinVietnam partner and Coach for College Program Director, Seth Napier.

1. Tell us a little about Coach for College (CFC) and the organization’s impact over the years.

Coach for College (CFC) was created and developed by student-athletes at Duke and UNC in 2008. It has since expanded to include participants from 40 US and 30 Vietnamese universities. CFC has held camps at 8 different schools in Vietnam for over 5,000 kids over the years.

Taking part in camp has been shown to increase the motivation of the kids to stay in school, as well as their self-confidence, and it reduces their drop-out rate at an age when many of their peers stop going to school. Several of our kids have made it to university (a high achievement for anyone in Vietnam, even more so for someone from the countryside) and we’ve recently had some return to the program as college student participants, to teach and mentor a new generation!

group of people smiling together in white t shirts

2. How has Coach for College and the communities where camps are normally run been affected this spring by COVID-19? How has this changed the way you’ve been able to operate and continue working?

Vietnam is one of the top success stories worldwide in fighting COVID-19. Both the government and the population have taken it quite seriously since January, closing schools, wearing masks and following guidelines. There was an initial outbreak early on, which they were able to trace and completely stop. After a month COVID-free, the virus was brought in again from Europe, and it spread to many parts of the country. This spike was also aggressively dealt with and is believed to be fully eliminated to date.

Schools were closed February through April, the population was asked to wear masks in public, and some short periods of lockdown were put in place. The government tracked down everyone who had been in contact with those testing positive, and quarantined them for ten days, including one of CFC’s staff. With no new cases anywhere in the country for two and half months, the country is back to living normally, as before COVID-19.

COVID-19 has had a strong impact on CFC. Due to the situation, partner schools canceled all summer programs, and many restrictions have been put in place on crossing borders worldwide. Not being able to run any programs in 2020 is both a huge disappointment, and a big financial challenge. On the positive side, we have the opportunity this summer to work on several good ideas to improve the program that we’ve never had time for in the past.

group of people smiling together

3. Is there a message you want to share with the group of ACE student-athletes who were supposed to participate in the Vietnam program this year?

We consistently see in Vietnam that the participants who thrive the most are those who face the experience and challenges with a positive and flexible attitude. Sure they may be tired, and some aspects of their day can be frustrating or uncomfortable, but they dive in with a smile and an attitude that it’s all part of the journey and will make a good story someday. People who embrace this attitude end up both performing better and enjoying themselves the most in the process.

This type of approach also helps in everyday life back home, and definitely can apply in this challenging time when we have to adapt to many changes imposed on our lives. We also usually start off camp by telling participants that it is normal to have ups and downs. You may well have a day when you feel grumpy, miss home, or just don’t feel as motivated. So be understanding if your teammate is having an off day. Give them space and encourage them.

But also be tolerant with yourself when you have a bad day. It’s normal, it’s OK, and don’t worry: you’ll bounce back, excited and fresh again. In this period, most of us are probably going through days where it is easy to feel negative and down. When we are discouraged, it usually feels like a permanent condition: life is gloomy, and it will stay this way, and we’ll always feel this way.

It isn’t though, and when one day we get to a place where it is easy to smile again, we look back and realize there was more hope than we realized in our dark moments. Even if we don’t feel it in the moment, it is true, and there will be yet undiscovered great chapters in our life, even though we can’t imagine them yet.