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Jordan Schwartz | | February 24, 2016

Beyond the beach: Stanford athletes doing more than playing volleyball

  Jordan Burgess is just one of the many Cardinal student-athletes making an impact in the community.

Jordan Burgess wants to change the way college athletes perform community service.

The Stanford senior describes current outreach efforts as visiting a local middle or high school to speak in a lecture setting before signing autographs.

“It’s more like we’re a living poster instead of a real mentor for them,” she said.

That got the indoor and beach volleyball player thinking. How can we make this better?

Burgess teamed up with Sina Javidan-Nejad, who throws the discus for the Cardinal track and field team, to create Overtime, a non-profit designed to inspire student-athletes and children across the nation to dream and innovate.

The idea is to invite youngsters to campus once a week to team up with athletes from various sports. The group would then take on a challenge like designing an obstacle course.

“Make the college athletes feel like they’re having a much bigger impact on the kids, while giving the kids a lot of creative confidence,” Burgess explained.

But the human biology major isn’t the only member of the Stanford beach volleyball team making an impact.

When Catherine Raquel was a senior in high school, she and her family went on vacation to the Philippines, where her parents were born. While there, Raquel and two of her sisters, Caroline and Carmina, got the opportunity to assist with a feeding program at a local elementary school. Many of the kids were severely malnourished, so the Los Angeles family helped distribute vitamins. At one point, a small girl was telling Raquel how she wanted to go to college and become a doctor.

“She turned out to be 12 like my youngest sister, but she was only half her size,” the Stanford sophomore remembers. “That really made us want to help out.”

After learning it only costs $3 to sponsor each child for a whole month, the Raquel girls returned home and worked with a good family friend to create Feed 2 Succeed.

They started organizing fundraisers and established the non-profit as an official school club. It even spread to four other high schools in the LA area. To date, they’ve raised $40,000.

Now on campus, Raquel is working to bring her initiative to Stanford and she says her teammates have been very supportive.

One of those teammates is Courtney Bowen, a Brooklyn native who is heading back to New York this summer for a freshman enhancement program with Morgan Stanley. It’s a 10-week internship designed to immerse participants in the world of finance.

“Wall Street is a very high intense environment, but they also emphasize teamwork and that reminds me of sports,” she said. “It’s exciting that they have this program to see if this is something I want to do.”

Bowen is always willing to try new things. She lettered in five different sports in high school, including volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, badminton and swimming.

The 6’4” middle blocker had no intention of playing volleyball in college, but a coach at George Washington who had seen her play at a club tournament in D.C., contacted Stanford indoor coach John Dunning, who invited her to walk on.

After that season ended, Bowen was invited to walk on to the beach team as well, a sport she had never played before.

“In indoor, everyone’s role is very specified because there are six on the court,” she said. “The game’s changed entirely on beach because everyone has to do everything. It adds new skills to the game, which I find exciting.”

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