Four Richmond Student-Athletes To Take Educational Journey To South Africa

By Atlantic 10 Conference

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Courtesy: Atlantic 10 Conference

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RICHMOND, Va. – Leadership, education and social justice are the common themes that four University of Richmond student-athletes will explore in an educational and cultural journey to Cape Town, South Africa. Junior football student-athlete Kevin Johnson, sophomore men's basketball student-athlete Nick Sherod, freshman women's basketball student-athlete Alex Parson and junior women's track student-athlete Marshea Robinson will spend May 16-27 exploring South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
"We are excited about this collaboration with our colleagues in the Office of International Education," Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hardt. "Providing opportunities such as this visit to South Africa, affords our Spider student-athletes with the educational and cultural opportunities to experience another area of the world, while still being able to maintain their training commitments to their varsity programs. For our student-athletes, this program is truly a welcomed opportunity to expand their educational horizons."
Inspired by the University of Richmond's Faculty Seminar in South Africa and being an integral experience of the Spider Athletics Leadership Initiative, these student-athletes will tour local historical and cultural sites to explore the dynamics within Cape Town and South Africa. This group, accompanied by Associate Director of Academic Support for Athletics Courtney Hughes, focus upon Nelson Mandela and his commingling of leadership and social justice. A tour of Robben Island and the District Six Museum will spearhead the groups discussion.
"I am extremely excited for the opportunity to travel to South Africa this month, as this has been a dream of mine ever since I was young," Robinson said. "I have always felt attached to Africa in some way. Being an African-American and learning about the history in our textbooks drew me to the continent. In fact, in high school I read Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom, and I dreamt of someday meeting Mandela in-person. Although this will never happen, I am grateful for the chance to learn more about South Africa and Nelson Mandela, and visit some of the locations he spoke about in his book."
While in South Africa, the group will make another Spider connection almost 8,000 miles from campus. Richmond alum and former Spider student-athlete Justin Grove (men's soccer 2007-11 – International Studies) owns and operates the Grove Soccer Academy, which has multiple facilities in the world. The Spiders will visit one of Grove's academies in South Africa, taking the time to meet with students and attend a training session.
"I am extremely excited for the opportunity to take this trip," Johnson said. "Having the ability to travel to the United Arab Emirates and South Africa is a once in a lifetime experience and I am grateful to the University of Richmond for allowing us four student-athletes to immerse ourselves in those cultures. I am looking forward to opening my world up to those cultures and learning as much as I can during our time overseas."
Tours of local townships and museums surrounding the historical significance of apartheid is included in this exploration. The group will also visit The University of Cape Town to meet and share experiences with students from the region. Finally, the Spider student-athletes will spend time engaging with University of Richmond faculty in South Africa, creating an academic opportunity to share, discuss and reflect upon their journey. 
"When I was first asked if I wanted to go, I did not hesitate at all" Parson said. "I think I'm most looking forward to learning more about leadership, social justice, and the intersection of the two and its application. This trip is sure to be life-changing and full of discovery. I hope to gain an understanding of individual differences, societal differences, cultural differences, but also all those similarities and how to value all of it."
Additionally, a layover in United Arab Emirates will allow the group to immerse themselves into the human rights and social justice issues presented in the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In preparation for this journey, the selected student-athletes have done pre-work researching their common themes and have meet with faculty to set the stage.  Once back in the Richmond, these student-athletes would reintroduce their deepened perspectives about leadership, education and social justice into our own environment.
"The one thing I hope to take away from my time overseas is the chance to have some historical context about apartheid and just how powerful Nelson Mandela's vision was and the impact that people can have when they are all unified," Sherod said.

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