This is part of a series highlighting recent ACE participants who are finding meaningful ways to connect and build on their ACE experience beyond their three-week ACE summer program. After student-athlete participants complete their ACE summer, they are encouraged to think about a specific goal that connects their ACE experience to their life in a meaningful way. ACE staff support this process through the development of a personal ACE Action Plan and 1-1 coaching, group meetings, and check-ins throughout the year. Learn more about the ACE Plan Process and other ways ACE student-athletes are supported post-experience.
Catherine Purnell, a sophomore on the Duke Women’s Swim & Dive Team and an ACE in Place Peru 2021 alum, has begun implementing an ACE Action Plan that will lead her to become fluent in Spanish.
“While we were in the ACE in Place Peru program, a lot of the work we did centered around Spanish translation, which I really enjoyed. I had never really used my Spanish outside of class before. I’m a Spanish minor at Duke, and ACE taught me I want to use Spanish in my daily life. When I thought about my ACE Action Plan, I just knew I wanted to do work on my Spanish.”
This focus on learning the language was inspired by her own passion for the language, as well as her future plans.
“In addition to being a Spanish minor, I’m also an International and Global Health Studies major, so my long-term plan is to work in countries with Spanish-speaking populations to help them get access to healthcare, and to do that you have to be able to communicate.”
In the fall, implementation of Purnell’s ACE Action Plan got off to a rocky start. She reached out to two organizations – the first never got back to her, and the second met during practice time, so she had to figure out a new approach. After reaching out to a former Spanish professor, she finally stumbled upon an opportunity that worked with her schedule, and she started tutoring a friend in Spanish.
“The person I’m tutoring works with kids in an area that has a high Spanish-speaking population, and she wanted to be able to speak Spanish so she could do her job better and communicate with the kids better. She asked if I could tutor her, and I said ‘Yes, absolutely!’ So we meet once a week for 30-60 minutes depending on our schedules.”
“I’m a Spanish minor at Duke, and ACE taught me I want to use Spanish in my daily life. When I thought about my ACE Action Plan, I just knew I wanted to do work on my Spanish.”
– Catherine Purnell, ACE in Place Peru 2021
Beyond this, Purnell has also applied and recently been accepted to a 4-week summer program in Bolivia. It is a global health program that is also an immersive experience.
“I’ll be living with a host family and there are lots of opportunities to use my Spanish, which was important to me.”
In Bolivia, Purnell will be rotating through hospitals and clinics, focusing on combating a disease called “Chagas disease” – all in Spanish.
In reflecting on her ACE Action Plan experience, dead ends have been frustrating – either no response from organizations or finding opportunities and not being able to do them for one reason or another. On the flipside though, so much searching has led her to opportunities Purnell would not have found otherwise. She also appreciates the relational part of her service work.
“It’s nice to reach out to people and it’s nice to talk to the person I’m tutoring and get to know her better. It’s just the little things that I appreciate the most.”
“I’m focusing on daily use – so forming the habit of using Spanish every day and intaking Spanish media would be an end goal.”
– Catherine Purnell, ACE in Place Peru 2021
She does not have an end in mind for her Action Plan. “I want to use Spanish in the future so it’s not something I ever want to be like ‘I’m done.’ I’m focusing on daily use – so forming the habit of using Spanish every day and watching Spanish media would be an end goal.”
The process has also changed the way Purnell approaches service. ACE in Place being online and still being so impactful broadened her definition of service.
“Service just has to be something where you connect with people and broaden your experience – this can really have a profound impact on the person and what they are able to do and spreading service beyond yourself.”
Purnell offers advice for others still that want to be involved with community service.
“Opportunities will come – I mean, you can’t sit back and just let it happen, you have to do some things – but honestly just talk to people, reach out, you can change what you want to do a lot – things will pop up.”
Certainly, a good mix of staying alert and seizing opportunities as they arose led Purnell to where she is today, still “going for the good.”