DURHAM, N.C. – 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.
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.”
Duke junior defender 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.
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