Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics
The March 2 women’s lacrosse contest between the 25th-ranked Stanford Cardinal and the 16th-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Koskinen Stadium brought together two powerhouse programs that also share a commitment to public service.
During the game—a 15-5 victory for the Cardinal—Stanford’s Allie DaCar and Madison O’Leary and Duke’s Michelle Staggers and Chloë Lewis were recognized for their participation in the Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program (ACE).
Now entering its third year, ACE is a joint initiative of Duke and Stanford Athletics, with support from the DukeEngage service-immersion program and the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford. ACE provides one-time funding for 20 Duke and 20 Stanford student-athletes each year to pursue immersive summer service experiences in communities in China, India, South Africa, and Vietnam.
“ACE was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…It allowed me to travel abroad and step outside my comfort zone with the support of an incredible group of student-athletes from both Duke and Stanford.”
– Madison O’Leary
The four ACE programs tackle diverse service themes including coaching, education, health outreach, environmental sustainability and conservation, and more.
As a member of the inaugural ACE in Vietnam team in 2016, Stanford senior defender Madison O’Leary taught biology, soccer, and life skills to middle school students in the Mekong Delta, with a focus on mentorship and promoting higher education.
“ACE was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said O’Leary. “It allowed me to travel abroad and step outside my comfort zone with the support of an incredible group of student-athletes from both Duke and Stanford.”
Reflecting on her own ACE in Vietnam experience in 2017, Stanford senior goalkeeper Allie DaCar—who tallied 12 saves in the game—emphasized the role of sports as a unifier, both for student-athletes and for members of the local community. “Sport brings us together as fellow student-athletes. It was amazing to see how it could bring together children on the other side of the globe as well,” she said. “The friendships I formed with the other coaches from Stanford, Duke, and Vietnam are strong enough to last a lifetime.”
DaCar indicated that the bonds shared by ACE athletes transcend on-field competition. “Even though we were competing against Duke, it became very real when we met after the game that we share a common goal of serving,” she said. “While school rivalries can be fun, it seems trivial now when we can instead be united through our interest in international service.”
“Sport brings us together as fellow student-athletes. It was amazing to see how it could bring together children on the other side of the globe as well…The friendships I formed with the other coaches from Stanford, Duke, and Vietnam are strong enough to last a lifetime.”
– Allie DaCar
Duke junior midfielder Michelle Staggers helped lead sports activities and teach English classes for students at a local school in New Delhi during ACE in India 2016.
“Participating in ACE in India laid the foundation for my pursuit of academic endeavors on campus that I [am] passionate about,” said Staggers, who credited ACE for encouraging her involvement in arts groups on campus, service projects with her team, and the DukeEngage program in Rwanda in summer 2017. “I’m grateful for ACE for showing me the limitless opportunities here at Duke,” she added.
The March 2 game marked the second time Staggers and O’Leary have met on the field as ACE alumni: the two squared off last February in Dallas, when Duke beat Stanford 12-8.
“It’s always a wonderful opportunity to compete against other ACE-athletes,” Staggers said. “Even though we’re opponents on the field, there’s always been an understanding that we’re part of a bigger ACE family off the field.”
As a member of the ACE in South Africa 2017 team, Duke junior midfielder Chloë Lewis helped run a two-week winter sports enrichment camp for middle schoolers, taught computer skills to local women, and helped construct a sustainable greenhouse in Nomzamo Township outside Cape Town. She highlighted the mutual benefit of ACE through her own spiritual growth and the tangible impacts on local stakeholders.
“We [ACE participants] had a blast learning from the township children during the sports camp, who reminded us to seize every opportunity and not to take anything for granted,” said Lewis. “We loved having the chance to help women in the township…who will now apply for jobs and one day might even start their own businesses. We [also] definitely learned the meaning of blood, sweat, and tears as we built the greenhouse from scratch.”
To date, 9 different Duke teams and 15 different Stanford teams have been represented in ACE for a total of 24 teams. The program is generously supported by David Rubenstein and Peter and Helen Bing. In addition, Duke Athletics donates a dollar of every ticket sale to support the program.
Past participants have the opportunity to give back to the program by serving as ACE Ambassadors, who promote the program among their teammates and peers. All four participants from Duke and Stanford Women’s Lacrosse have all served or are serving as ACE Ambassadors, indicating their continued commitment to the program’s mission of Duke and Stanford athletes ‘Going for the Good.’
Thanks to the efforts of O’Leary, DaCar, Staggers, Lewis, and their fellow ACE Ambassadors, the ACE program drew more applicants for 2018 than either previous year. Three women’s lacrosse players from Stanford and one from Duke have been accepted to ACE 2018, in three of the four offered programs. The new ACE cohort will begin pre-departure preparations in the coming weeks.