Student-Athlete Development: Dominican Republic Blog

Thirteen Virginia Tech student-athletes are spending a portion of this summer in the Dominican Republic as part of a university-designed study abroad course about leadership and putting leadership initiatives into practice. The group will be visiting poorer parts of the country to work with underprivileged children. These student-athletes will be coordinating sports camps to expose kids there to different sports.

This year’s class includes football players J.C.Coleman and T.J. Shaw, men’s basketball players Christian Beyer and Will Johnston, lacrosse players Kelsey Allen and Jack Boissonneault, women’s swimmers Blaire Kinsey and Katie Rogers, women’s diver Katie Bean, women’s soccer players Jordan Coburn and Morgan Conklin, and volleyball player Jordan Fish.

Jon Jaudon, Tech’s associate AD for administration and Danny White, director of student-athlete affairs are traveling with the group and coordinating activities with the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, Deportes Para La Vida and the Peace Corps. This is the third year that Virginia Tech student-athletes have taken part in this study abroad opportunity.

Members of the group will be submitting blog entries each day to detail their experiences in the Dominican Republic. The group will arrive in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on June 2, 2014.

June 13, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

It was very bittersweet waking up this morning to a quiet house. We arrived back in Blacksburg yesterday around 11pm and went our separate ways. I have been spending these past 10 days with a group of students and staff that now share a connection that is unexplainable. It is strange not spending the whole day with them anymore. We became so accustomed to spending every moment with each other, working together and reflecting about our day, that now I feel I am missing something. We started as a group of strangers looking for ourselves and venturing on an unknown adventure, but now the task is to translate our new experiences into our normal lives. ... Read More

June 12, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

What a bittersweet day it was today. Of course we are going back to go ole’ Blacksburg, but it is extremely sad leaving the people we have made relationships with and the place that we considered our home for the past 10 days. Welinton, who works at the Foundation, is one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met. It warmed my heart seeing him throw us a fiesta for our last night. The fiesta was filled with Dominican food, dancing, and a little bit of the culture. It was a great way to end our night here even though Danny was lacking on the dance moves (Haha). ... Read More

June 11, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

Today was our designated beach day and it was a bit of a change from our normal schedule we were accustomed to. Our day started out early when we left the foundation at 8 am to head to Bayahibe beach. It took about an hour to get there and we were all so happy to get off the bus and head to the playa! Once we arrived at the beach, many of us rushed to jump in and then lay out in order to try and even out our extreme camp tans. ... Read More

June 10, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

Today is our first day here in the Dominican Republic that we have no specifically planned activities. I think many of us wish we were back at camp today playing with the children of Veron! This is a day of reflection and classwork. We woke up today with morning workouts on the beach, and then headed to class at ten. Our brains were fired up as we spoke to each other about program planning and implementing ideas we have come up with involving this course as soon as we get back to Tech. The entire class has come up with some awesome thoughts to keep us connected with the children throughout the year, and ideas for fundraising to benefit those we have encountered while here in the Dominican Republic. ... Read More

June 9, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

What will you look forward to tomorrow, the next day, or even your future? In the batey, the opportunity to dream is extremely limited, and may call for not looking forward to anything. A batey is a community where Dominicans and more specifically, Haitians join together to make a life finding job opportunities in order to survive. Surrounded by tons of acres of sugarcane and dry dirt, the batey we visited today was quite a site to see, and almost led me to shed a few tears. ... Read More

June 8, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

This blog comes at the conclusion of our camps with the kids. This was the last day we would see our new friends. As we all realized this, we felt as if we wanted this camp day to be the best. This camp day was a DPV day. The last day to inform and educate the kids about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. The DPV guys Victor, Miguel Angel, and Julio all have been great teachers and role models as they have incorporated games into raising awareness for HIV and STDs. ... Read More

June 7, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

The few months leading up to this trip fostered a great amount of anticipation within all of the students participating in this class. But nothing we could have predicted is anything remotely close to what we haveexperienced. Today marks Day 6 of our arrival in the beautiful Dominican Republic. The past three days have been focused on our leadership in sports and activities with the kids from nearby neighborhoods, but today, we handed the reins over to the representatives from Deportes Para la Vida to raise awareness of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Although we were not leading the camps today, it was a challenge for the other students and I to learn how to take on less vocal roles while still maintaining our position as role models and enforcers. ... Read More

June 6, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

This class focuses on service learning, a learning strategy in which students have leadership roles in thoughtfully organized service experiences that meet real needs in the community. Today Christian, Jack, TJ and myself took a lead role; we were in charge of camp this afternoon. The four of us spent the past days preparing our ideas and brushing up on our Spanish in order to accomplish our goal. Our goal is to be a positive influence on the children of Veron and show them that sports can lead to a happy lifestyle. ... Read More

June 5, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

Today started a little different than the past couple—we didn’t do a group workout in the morning. Several people did some running on their own, but for the most part, people slept in to catch up on some much needed sleep. (This can be accredited to a very active past few days jam-packed with activities.) We started the day with class at 10am in the downstairs classroom and talked about our views on solving problems: “Problem A’s” and “Problem B’s”. We learned that “Problem A’s” are the big problems that exist in a culture; they are complicated and very difficult to address. On the other hand, “Problem B’s” are problems that are easily fixable in a short amount of time. We related this to the problems we see here in Punta Cana—the education is a huge problem here (Problem A) and all we’ve seen is work on the minor problems, like painting the outside of the schools (Problem B).
We then continued class outside to talk about program planning, and we really delved in to what it takes planning a program like this trip. So many stakeholders are involved, and the process is a lot of hard work. We expressed some ideas of our own that could have a bigger impact on the kids we work with in the camps. Some of the main things we talked about were fundraising for their education and keeping in contact with them through videos or pen pal-type letters. ... Read More

June 4, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

The first day of camp has finally arrived! The day began very similar to yesterday with workouts in the morning on the beach following breakfast and some down time. At around 10am, Welington, the Logistical Coordinator of the Ecological Foundation we are staying in, took us on a tour around the campus of the facility. We first came across a bee keeping area where colonies make honey for Dominicans to eat. We also came across a ton of animals like donkeys, pigs, roosters, and even an angry mule that snot rocketed all over Morgan Conklin and Jordan Fish. After a very hot tour, we went to lunch where we had tomato and cucumber salads with chicken, fish, rice and cheesy mashed potatoes. It was delicious! ... Read More

June 3, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

Today was our first full day in the Dominican Republic! We are so pumped to finally be here! Today we traveled 15 minutes outside of the foundation to the city Veron. Here we were able to get a glimpse at what education, water systems, and health services looked like in the city. ... Read More

June 2, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

After a long day of traveling we finally arrived in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic! The hours of sitting in the airport and plane only fueled our excitement and anticipation. We felt like VIPs walking off the plane as our first site was a lady standing there with a sign “Danny White and VT Athletes”. The first thing I felt was the instant heat and humidity in the air, and so did my camera. Volunteering as the photographer for the trip, I wanted to get a group shot in front of the airport but the condensation on my lens made the photo blurry. No worries though, my camera adjusted to the heat. ... Read More

June 1, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

Tomorrow morning we will be leaving for the Dominican Republic. As we continue to get closer to leaving, I get more and more excited. There is a part of me that is nervous, simply because of not knowing everything that we will be doing, but then there is also a part of me that knows this will be an amazing experience. As we all wait for tomorrow morning to come, I picture everyone in the group thinking about the various possibilities that this trip could bring. Personally, I am most looking forward to working with the kids in the sports camps. I’ve worked in situations like this in the past and have always found this to be an extremely eye-opening service. I’m also looking forward to getting to know everyone in our group better – as well as getting to know the people we will meet in the Dominican Republic. ... Read More

May 31, 2014
Student Life: Dominican Republic Blog

As we embark on our UNIV 3954 study abroad course to the Dominican Republic, I believe there are a few things those who are following our journey should know. First and foremost, many key leaders across the landscape of this university have made this course possible. To them we owe a great deal of gratitude. Secondly, Virginia Tech has some amazing students – ten of which are traveling with us and who will write a blog entry each day while abroad. The Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, Deportes Para La Vida and the Peace Corps are doing remarkable work in Punta Cana and the surrounding communities - we hope to come along side them and learn from their efforts. Finally, it is our hope that the university's motto of Ut Prosim will come to life for us during this course as we merge academic theory behind motivation with thoughtful service to others. That being said, please allow me to share some brief thoughts behind the vision of this course: ... Read More

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