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July 16, 2014

PITTSBURGH - Brianna Kiesel of the Pitt women's basketball team, along with three member of the swimming and diving team will be representing the Panthers as they joins fellow student-athletes from around the country on a month-long trip to Vietnam with the `Coach for College' program.

"I'm so excited for this opportunity," Kiesel said. "I can't wait to go to Vietnam and immerse myself into a culture I don't know much about. It is an amazing opportunity to build relationships with the kids in Vietnam and also with my peers from the United States."  

Started by Duke University students in 2007, `Coach for College' attempts to promote higher education globally through sports. 'Coach for College' seeks to capitalize on the popularity of sports to reintegrate into universities two groups currently on the margins: disadvantaged youth in rural parts of developing countries who have difficulties accessing higher education, and student-athletes at American universities whose year-round commitment to sports prohibits them from having the same civic engagement opportunities as other college students.

By encouraging student-athletes to pursue opportunities outside of sports, the `Coach for College' program hopes to generate interest among the youth in countries such as Vietnam in following higher education opportunities.

The goal of this program is to provide youth with new sports infrastructure and equipment, as these must be in place before youth are able to derive the many benefits that can come from playing sports. To this end, a multi-function "all-sports court" is built on the grounds of partner middle schools by a local construction company, financed by funds raised for the program. The court contains lines and court surfaces painted to allow for the play of the five "court" sports (basketball, indoor soccer, tennis, volleyball, and badminton), as well as a roof, a fence surrounding the perimeter, a storage shed for equipment, and a covered area for spectators. The equipment used in the program is donated to the school at the end of the camps. 

Representing the swimming and diving team are Lauren Mills, Mackenzie Meixner and recent graduate Renee Deschenes. This will be Mills' third foreign service trip as she spent time in Cameroon last summer and was in Haiti this past May.

"Something like this show that our student-athletes aren't only dedicated to their respective sport, but that they are also dedicated to making an impact on other people's lives," head swimming and diving coach Chuck Knoles said.

The student-athletes will serve as a member of a "coaching group" while in Vietnam, along with other student-athlete from the States and two bilingual Vietnamese college students. The program consists of three activities: sports classes, academic classes and life skills sessions. Each coach will serve as a teacher for one sport, one academic subject and as a mentor to a specific team of children.

As a mentor in the program, the four Pitt representatives will not only be educating their students academically and athletically, they will be teaching life lessons that are associated with collegiate athletics such as teamwork, accountability, sportsmanship, commitment, integrity and respect.

Pitt Student-Athletes Travel to Vietnam to `Coach for College'

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