Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Life Lessons Pitt's Brianna Kiesel Spent a Month Teaching Children in Vietnam and Introduced Them to Basketball, Too

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Life Lessons Pitt's Brianna Kiesel Spent a Month Teaching Children in Vietnam and Introduced Them to Basketball, Too

Article excerpt

As a point guard, communication is an essential part of Brianna Kiesel's job. She has to call plays, direct teammates and run the show for Pitt on the basketball court.

This summer her communication skills met a stiffer test.

Kiesel spent a month in Vietnam, from the middle of July to the middle of August, teaching middle-schoolers math and basketball as part of the "Coach for College" program.

She had the help of a Vietnamese college student, serving as a translator, but she also was able to form relationships with her students through non-verbal communication.

"I swear to you, I didn't know I could love kids so much without having a conversation with them," Kiesel said. "A high-five and a thumbs-up goes so far."

Kiesel, a senior, discovered the program through Pitt's life skills department and decided it was something she wanted to do. "Coach For College" started at Duke in 2007, and its goal is to help promote higher education through athletics.

Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said Kiesel is always the first player to volunteer for community service, so she was a natural fit. She already earned a degree from Pitt in administration of justice and is pursuing a second in communications.

For her, going to Vietnam was a chance to emphasize education to children who might otherwise consider dropping out of school to start working. "You basically get a chance to go and give them the extra boost," Kiesel said.

Still, flying halfway around the world to a place with a different culture and language takes guts.

"I'm very proud of her, with having that initiative to do that," McConnell-Serio said. "I give her a lot of credit. I've traveled, and it's not easy going to another country. She didn't know anyone before she went. She didn't know what she was getting into going on that trip."

Kiesel worked in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, starting at about 6:30 a. …

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