A pair of South Carolina student-athletes will be back in the classroom this summer, but in a much different setting than they have grown accustomed. Maddie Frome, a rising junior on the sand volleyball team, and Erika Rucker, a fifth year senior on the track and field team who recently earned her nursing degree, are heading to Vietnam in July to teach underprivileged children as part of the Coach for College program.
"We'll be working with young kids in a school in a rural area," Frome said. "We'll make lesson plans for the day, and I'll also be teaching them volleyball. They ask us what subjects we'd be most comfortable teaching. I'm hoping I get math, but I don't know yet. There will be translators in each classroom to help us out."
"We'll be teaching life skills, and things like perseverance and teamwork," Rucker added. "Each of us will be teaching a subject, and I've been chosen to teach physics. We'll also teach them a sport, and I'll be teaching them baseball."
Coach for College is a non-profit organization that offers student-athletes the chance to teach youths in rural parts of developing countries. This is part of a global initiative to promote higher education and life skills through sports. Frome and Rucker are members of the South Carolina's Student-Athlete Advisory Council and found out about the program at one of their meetings earlier this year. The duo will leave for Southeast Asia in mid-July and will return in mid-August.
"I'm really hoping to broaden my perspective on different cultures because I've never been to a rural part of another country," Rucker said. "We get so caught up in our own culture and our own ideas that we think are normal. Overseas, they probably do things very differently. I'll be interested in learning more about that."
"It really sparked an interest in me," Frome said. "It sounded like a life-changing experience. I knew a girl who used to be on the soccer team here, Gabby Gilbert, who had done it the year before. I had seen the pictures from her trip, and it just seemed incredible. I asked her about it, and she sent me an essay about her experiences and how much she enjoyed it, and just how amazing it was to get to know the kids there."
Frome, who hails from Newport Beach, California, and Rucker, originally from Flowery Branch, Georgia, do have some experience traveling internationally, but they know this setting will be unlike anything they have done before.
"I think I'm more extremely excited than nervous," Frome said. "I've never been to Southeast Asia, so I don't know what to expect. It won't be a glamorous lifestyle, and it will be an adjustment. I think this will be a humbling experience. I'm excited to go to an area like this and see how other people live. I'm excited to see what it has in store for me."
As a six time All-American sprinter at South Carolina, Rucker knows that hard work has its rewards. She hopes that the hard work this summer will not only benefit the young students, but also reward all of the student-athletes with an education of their own.
"I definitely think it will be life-changing," Rucker said. "I've seen some videos of the kids and they look so happy. I know all the material things we have here aren't the key to happiness. Those kids don't have much, but they look so full of joy. I can't wait to be around them. It's just another opportunity to help and contribute. As student-athletes, we can get so wrapped up in our sport and academics that we might forget about other people around us. I want to help."