Rodney Herenton is a Stanford 2020 graduate and former Men’s Basketball team member. In the summer of 2017, Herenton traveled outside of the US for the first time as an ACE in India participant. Five years later, Herenton shares how his initial culture shock became a formative and humbling experience that gave him more appreciation for his education. Herenton now works in real estate investment and also shares how seeing New Delhi’s unique infrastructure sparked his own interest in urban development.
What are you doing now? How did ACE influence your career?
I’m a real estate investment analyst at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) based in Austin, Texas. My time in the ACE in India program in New Delhi had a direct impact on what I do today. While I was in India, I was fascinated by the city’s density, beautiful state and religious buildings, and diverse communities that we saw on our lengthy drives to and from the school every day. I was also struck by the lack of quality livable space and adequate infrastructure.
These observations opened my eyes to how the use of space, specifically real estate, plays a huge role in urban development and our everyday lives. Real estate plays a key part in our everyday lives, but we often pass the buildings around us and don’t even think twice about their important functions in the areas they are situated in. My time in India encouraged me to observe my surroundings from a different perspective and spurred my interest in learning more about how cities and communities use and develop space.
“My time in India encouraged me to observe my surroundings from a different perspective and spurred my interest in learning more about how cities and communities use and develop space.”
– Rodney Herenton, ACE in India 2017
Following my ACE experience, I went on to do an internship in London the following summer. I also had the opportunity to travel to the Bahamas with my basketball team my junior year. One of the most meaningful parts of the team trip was the time we spent visiting a local school which very much reminded me of my time in New Delhi and the school where we taught. My ACE experience furthered my passion of travel and pursuing unique experiences. Through my teaching experience through ACE, I was well prepared to connect and inspire kids from a different community and cultural background.
What was the most meaningful part of your ACE experience?
The most meaningful part of my experience was the first 3-4 days in the country. We were not accustomed to not having access to wi-fi 24/7. Throughout most of the day, we were hot and sweaty. Not having endless access to clean drinking water (we had to bring our own water bottles) was an adjustment as well.
The culture shock I experienced during our first few days in India was humbling as we learned to adjust to our new environment and realized how many things we often take for granted on campus or at home that are not accessible for everyone in the world. ACE in India was my first time traveling outside of the US. As you can imagine, having my first international experience in a city like New Delhi was a complete culture shock.
Share a lesson you learned from your ACE experience that still holds true today:
A lesson I took away from ACE was that we cannot take access to education for granted. The school we taught at in India had limited technology in the classrooms, majority of them only having a chalkboard. As a Stanford student, I was blessed to be able to attend one of the best schools in the world. Even with all the resources we have at our fingertips, there are times where we may find ourselves complaining about minor inconveniences.
“ACE made me realize what a privilege it is to attend Stanford and how important education is in determining the quality of a person’s life.”
– Rodney Herenton, ACE in India 2017
ACE made me realize what a privilege it is to attend Stanford and how important education is in determining the quality of a person’s life. In a place like India, so many kids are at a disadvantage in life from a young age simply because they do not have adequate educational resources.
Share a fun ACE memory:
There was one day when I was the PE coach at the school and we were picking teams for a soccer game. Usually, the soccer games in PE were complete chaos, so I decided to add a little structure to the games. One of the popular kids and myself were team captains and we started to pick our teams. As the team captain, I chose a mix of boys and girls, while the other team captain only chose other boys that were his best friends or athletic. After we chose our teams, I gathered my group in a huddle and told them that we are going to win off of patience and playing our roles.
While my team played in an orderly fashion, all the kids on the other team wanted to play the right forward position and were focused on getting their own highlights. After PE class ended, it was so much fun bragging with the girls on how they beat the boys the rest of the school day. As a result of the structure that I added to the soccer games, the kids learned about teamwork, the girls felt more comfortable playing with the boys who usually excluded them from the games, and some of the better athletes learned how to be strategic on the field.
Describe your ACE experience in as few words as possible:
You never stop learning in life. You have to take it upon yourself to pursue different experiences that challenge your perspective and comfort level.
What’s one thing you want people to know about ACE?
ACE presents you with an opportunity to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You have the full freedom to get as much out of it as you want.
What’s your hope for the future of ACE? What advice do you have for future ACE participants?
One thing I wish for the program is for at least one student from every sports team at Duke and Stanford to participate in ACE. I also think it would be amazing if we could somehow stay in contact with the students that ACE student-athletes have taught or coached over the years and keep track of their progress in life as they grow older. I think it would be valuable to observe how ACE has impacted their lives far beyond the three-week summer programs with the Duke and Stanford ACE teams.