The Change Up

Aug. 19, 2014

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By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - She calls it her "ah-ha" moment.

After reaching the peak of her pre-dawn hike to the top of Mount Kronos in Olympia, Greece, in late July UCF midfielder Megan Fish gazed at the panorama before her.

To the left: beautiful white houses on the hills - the picture-perfect version of Greece.

Straight ahead: the International Olympic Academy and flags from various nations.

To her right: ancient Olympia, stadiums from the first Olympic Games and temple ruins.

As she waited for the sun to break through the horizon, she reflected on an ideology she picked up earlier that week during the Olympism4Humanity Summer Praxis Program. Fish, along with the 44 others participants in the sport-for-social change seminar, were lighting a torch within themselves to carry back to their communities.

"You saw the sunrise slowly start to touch everything and slowly light up all the land. It showed me the power of everyone's light together. It's like the sun," Fish said. "It will eventually touch everything and everyone, but obviously you can't just pop up to the top. It's a slow rise. There's patience involved. There's determination involved. There's struggle involved. It's that perseverance and that commitment and love that keeps it together. When it does rise, eventually it will touch everything and will be limitless. That moment was probably one of the most special in my life."

Fish was the only current NCAA student-athlete to attend the summit. The program just completed its second year and is the first professional training opportunity solely focused on Olympic ideals as a tool for social change.

The South Carolina native knew she wanted to attend after completing a service trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in May with Knights Without Borders.

"I think it was perfect timing," Fish said. "I've always known I wanted to end up working for non-profits after my soccer career. It was just that idea ended with that - I never thought into it more. On Knights Without Borders, working with all the kids, I realized that's what I really want to do with my life."

She applied for inclusion into the Summer Praxis Program unsure of what to expect from the description she read online. But phrases like "sport for peace and development" and "Olympic spirit" made her feel this was a chance she needed to take.

She spent her days attending lectures and workshops with people from all over the world: Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, Greece, Japan, South Africa, Sudan and the United States. Of the 45 associated with the program, a total of nine were students ranging from high school to doctoral candidates.

She roomed with another 20-year-old from Sudan, who serves as a youth ambassador for her country. Fish was inspired by her peer's activism and said Alaa left an impression on her after hearing about her life at university.

"They are in school in the summer because last fall, they had four or five months they had to take off of school because of a shooting. She said people bring knives to her school," Fish said. "She goes to school worrying about that stuff and I go to school worrying that it won't rain so I can make it to class without getting wet. It was really humbling to see other people's lives."

The program lasted from June 28-July 8, but Fish was invited to extend her visit by the program's director. She attended another seminar with a group from Harvard before making her way back to the States on July 20.

"I didn't expect at all going into this to get really personal with these people," Fish said. "It wasn't a situation where you're learning something and then going back. They wanted to help you as much as they can. They believe in what you can do and what you're interested in and want to give you the tools to be successful."

As she gears up for another season with the reigning American Athletic Conference champions, she is also eager to put what she learned into practice, and get her teammates involved in the process.

Fish hopes to implement a Street Soccer USA program in Orlando. It is a non-profit organization that aims to promote social change for homeless men, women and children around the nation. She intends to begin with a team and aspires for that team to grow large enough to turn into a league in the future.

"Soccer is as natural to me as smiling and to be able to express myself and love for the beautiful game while radiating hope and happiness to others while doing so...there's no better feeling," she wrote in her travel journal. "Soccer is a universal language, and through it I will speak to the world."



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