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.
Laurel Foster, a senior on the Stanford Women’s Sailing team, has leaned into her role as an upperclassman mentor in her time after ACE in Place Vietnam in 2021.
As a part of her Action Plan, she became a Partners for Academic Excellence (PAE) mentor. PAE is an undergraduate course intended for first-year student-athletes at Stanford, built to help them successfully navigate their first quarter as a Division I student-athletes. Foster described how she enjoyed the course when she was a freshman.
“It was valuable for me to make friends in the student-athlete community as well as learn about some of the resources that I don’t think I would have learned about otherwise. So, becoming a PAE mentor was a great opportunity to give back. I spent the fall Monday nights doing this.”
She was inspired to become a mentor partially based on her own experience with PAE, but it has been the deep relationships on her own team that really inspired her Action Plan.
“I had great upperclassmen – my freshman year I loved the seniors and had great relationships with them, but the most valuable part of being on the sailing team is the relationships I have with the members of the underclassmen. Those relationships are so valuable, and I like that opportunity to be an upperclassmen mentor. I wanted to expand it past the bounds of my own team.”
Foster has recently received word that she will be able to stay and earn her Master’s next year, so she will be a fifth year on the sailing team and will continue building these relationships and mentoring incoming freshmen.
“Those relationships are so valuable, and I like that opportunity to be an upperclassmen mentor. I wanted to expand it past the bounds of my own team.”
– Laurel Foster, ACE in Place Vietnam 2021
“In my senior year, I was feeling like I still had work to do on the team, so not having to be done just yet is great. Helping the team from a culture perspective has been what I’ve found my niche is on the team. Just feeling comfortable leaning into that has been part of my Action Plan.”
She commented on how her ACE in Place experience has contributed to her ability to form meaningful relationships, and how fulfilling those have been.
“It’s the community aspect that’s been really valuable. I think the practice I was able to get in the ACE community to ‘get deep fast.’ The relationships, the trust, and learning about different sports or different ways student-athletes think about their sports – those have been the most rewarding aspects of the action plan process.”
It has not all been so easy though. Coming back from the pandemic has been a relief, but a return to normalcy has also meant a return to crazy schedules, and it has become much harder to see and intentionally build relationships, even with teammates.
“Helping the team from a culture perspective has been what I’ve found my niche is on the team. Just feeling comfortable leaning into that has been part of my Action Plan.”
– Laurel Foster, ACE in Place Vietnam 2021
“The frustration came with the transition back to full school. It has been a little hard for the student-athlete community. We shifted from living with the team to being back to normal, spread out all over campus, not living with your teammates anymore. Having to really work to see each other has been tough. It’s been great to be in community with Stanford as a whole but connecting with the athletic community as a whole has been harder.”
Foster emphasized that it has all been worth it, and intentionality is the name of the game – not only in relationships, but in pursuing civic engagement in your daily life.
“I think that just taking the opportunities as they came up is really important. The biggest trap is saying ‘Oh I could be applying to jobs, I could be doing extra schoolwork,’ but choosing the time to spend on the community things is important. Just saying ‘yes’ to that kind of thing.”
Foster will continue to say “Yes!” deepening relationships and being a positive influence on underclassmen’s lives throughout her fifth year at Stanford.