2022 ACE Wrap-Up Program – Duke University

DURHAM – With the 2022 ACE Program complete, we take a moment to look back on the program’s seventh year.

This summer, ACE offered five virtual service programs and one in-person US-based program focused on supporting community-based organizations located in Peru, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, and Colorado for 22 Duke and Stanford student-athletes representing 17 different sports teams. Virtual programs allow ACE the opportunity to continue to offer impactful summer service experiences for Duke and Stanford student-athletes in the midst of the on-going global COVID-19 pandemic and provide a flexible option for student-athletes to engage in service experiences. Some student-athletes completed their ACE experience while living on campus, training and taking summer school classes, while others while others participated from their hometowns located around the world.

The ACE in Colorado program, ACE’s first ever in-person US-based program, gave student’s impactful experience and education in environmental conservation and sustainability, and maintained ACE’s mission of delivering experiences to student-athletes through discussion and engagement on global conservation efforts. This summer’s programs were a culmination of the efforts of the ACE staff, ACE Ambassador Alumni, and community partners working together to bring ACE back to in-person programming as well as continuing to provide meaningful virtual service experiences. Through virtual and in-person service experiences, ACE student-athletes had the opportunity to participate in collaborative service projects, form relationships across the Duke and Stanford athletic community, and connect with community partners around the world. Across the six programs, ACE student-athletes contributed over 950 hours of service.


ACE in Colorado 2022 (new in-person program)
Program dates: June 15 – July 6
ACE’s first ever in-person domestic US-based program, the ACE team assisted in promoting global conservation and environmental stewardship efforts by supporting community-led initiatives in the western rural regions of Colorado located near the communities of Gunnison and Durango. Community partner projects included volunteering on an organic farm based around regenerative agriculture, supporting initiatives to regenerate alpine wetlands, and learning at a conservation laboratory about regenerative practices to protect food and water systems. Participants also learned about conservation and indigenous communities by visiting the Ute Mountain Tribal Park.

ACE in Place South Africa 2022 (virtual)
Program dates: June 26 – July 15
Student-athletes virtually supported Ocean Pledge, an NGO based in Cape Town dedicated to making a difference to South Africa’s current status as 11th largest contributor of marine plastic. The ACE team helped Ocean Pledge develop and launch a youth ambassador program. The goal of this program is to teach South African youth valuable communication and leadership skills as well as instill in them a passion for protecting the ocean. The ACE Team and Ocean Pledge hope that this will have an impact on the South African youth and help curb the plastic pollution problem that is currently affecting the country’s coastline. The ACE team also benefitted from cultural immersion classes that which helped them both grow an appreciation for the South African cultures and better understand the area they’re working with in order to craft meaningful project work. In addition to their service project work with Ocean Pledge, students learned how to cook a Cape Malay Curry through a virtual cooking class, participated in an isiXhosa language lesson, and learned about Zulu cultural traditions.

ACE in Place Peru 2022 (virtual)
Program dates: June 26 – July 15
Student-athletes virtually supported CDS, an NGO based in Peru aimed at environmental conservation, facilitating education, and research and sustainable development activities in the Peruvian Oxapampa cloud forests. The ACE team worked to increase awareness of CDS’s two fundraisers through engagement with university students and college campuses in the United States. They developed social media and marketing strategies to increase CDS’s outreach and spread their mission of forest conservation and sustainable development in the Peruvian rainforest. Working with the directors of CDS gave the ACE team insight into the struggle nonprofits face coming out of the pandemic. In addition, students learned how to make “causa a la limeña” through a virtual cooking class, observed a Incan ritual ceremony in real-time, and participated in a Quechua language and music history class.

ACE in Place Thailand 2022 (virtual)
Program dates: July 24 – August 11
Student-athletes virtually supported Shark Guardian, a UK-based organization dedicated to advancing the conservation of sharks and the natural environment in Thailand through conservation, education, and research projects. The ACE team helped Shark Guardian with contacting dive centers in South Africa to tweet against shark-fin transport on South African Airlines and gained valuable insights into how media campaigns and outreach function. In addition to their service project work, students learned how to cook traditional Thai krapow from a local community-based NGO, participated in a virtual Muay Thai martial arts class, and were immersed in Thai culture through conversations with community experts.

ACE in Place Vietnam 2022 (virtual)
Program dates: June 26 – July 15Student-athletes virtually supported Coach for College and assisted Vietnamese college students teaching and mentoring middle school youth living in rural southern Vietnam. ACE participants worked together on small teams with their Vietnamese teaching partners to plan academic and life skills lessons as well as create teaching video content for middle school youth. A highlight of the program was interacting in real-time with the Vietnamese middle school youth. Cross-cultural activities shared between the ACE participants and Vietnamese college students included cooking American and Vietnamese dishes together, sharing video tours of participants’ hometowns and schools, and playing interactive games like trivia.


  • Zach Barry (’24) – Men’s Cross Country + Track & Field – ACE in Place Vietnam
  • Julia Boyet (’24) – Softball – ACE in Place Vietnam
  • Phoebe Brinker (’24) – Women’s Golf – ACE in Colorado
  • Alayna Burns (’24) – Field Hockey – ACE in Colorado
  • Ellie Coleman (’25) – Women’s Tennis – ACE in Colorado
  • Connor Drake (’23) – Men’s Lacrosse – ACE in Colorado
  • Christina Ferrari (’24) – Women’s Fencing – ACE in Colorado
  • Seamus Harding Jr. (’24) – Men’s Swimming & Diving – ACE in Place Vietnam
  • Connor Krug (’25) – Men’s Tennis – ACE in Place Thailand
  • John Peters (’25) – Men’s Golf – ACE in Place South Africa
  • Gisele Tapia (’23) – Softball – ACE in Place Peru
  • KyAnh Truong (’25) – Women’s Swimming & Diving – ACE in Place Vietnam
  • Aleyna Ozkan (’23) – Women’s Swimming & Diving – ACE in Place South Africa
  • Lillie Walker (’24) – Softball – ACE in Place Vietnam


Each student shared final reflections in a blog post at the end of their ACE experience. All blog posts can be accessed on the ACE website.
“ACE in Place Vietnam provided me a platform to interact with a culture and community I otherwise would not have. Memories I will hold onto include showing the students an American Fourth of July fireworks show, learning how to use Vietnamese chopsticks (still a work in) progress), and creating American and Vietnamese food dishes.Zach BarryDuke Men’s Cross Country and Track and Field, ACE in Place Vietnam

“Through the format of small groups and daily sharing activities, I formed meaningful connections to the Vietnamese college students that we worked with each day. I learned more about their lives and culture than I had imagined possible through Zoom.”Julia BoyetDuke Softball, ACE in Place Vietnam

“Connecting with fellow Duke student-athletes over the course of this program may be one of the most fruitful experiences from Colorado. In encountering challenges we weren’t quite expecting, we worked hard together to bring our best each day, driving us closer as friends and ACE teammates while offering me incredibly valuable new perspectives in school, sports, and life. Putting our bodies and minds to work together to give back to the environment was so empowering and getting to work and learn alongside my new friends was both motivating and inspiring in ways I will always cherish. “ Alayna BurnsDuke Field Hockey, ACE in Colorado

“I could speak about all the amazing things I enjoyed in Colorado, but honestly, every day was a blessing, and I am thankful to have met the people and seen the places I did. I feel like this experience offered many things I can take” away in addition to the relationships. Most importantly, however, this experience registered a great lesson in living in the moment, being where your feet are, and showing appreciation for your surroundings. “Connor DrakeDuke Men’s Lacrosse, ACE in Colorado

For more information on the ACE Program, visit the ACE website.


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