Updated: Feb 10
The Peace Through Sport program is generously funded by the US Embassy in Lebanon.
Peace Through Sport (PTS) is an eight-week program designed to virtually connect youth in Lebanon and the US as they develop respect for diversity, communication, and problem-solving skills through the lens of sport. Youth create and implement projects to benefit their communities after learning about the strengths, weaknesses and resources in those communities.
Guest speakers join the virtual calls during each round to share American values through the lens of sport. Now in the second of eight rounds of the program, more than 150 students have already heard from three impactful and motivational speakers. On behalf of the PTS staff and students, we are grateful for these three amazing women and the words of wisdom they shared.
Jayde Kelly – Ironman, Physical Education Teacher, Running Coach
Jayde Kelly grew up loving sports and always knew she wanted to teach physical education to young children. She taught physical education at Glenelg Country School for seventeen years and taught college level students for seven years. She became an Ironman swimming 2.4 miles, biking 110 miles, and running 26.2 miles in under 17 hours. Jayde started feeling ill (difficulty breathing, sleeping and walking), and she was surprised to discover that she was having heart failure. Within a very short period of time, Jayde went from L-vad to a central-mag to Bi-Vad, using pumps to keep her alive. She waited for a new heart until one arrived on January 3,2019. The director of the heart transplant department is Lebanese. Jayde's surgeon performed the heart transplant saving Jayde’s life. Jayde and Dr. Molina ran a half marathon the week after she spoke to the PTS students.
Jayde’s message to the students was one of hope, perseverance, teamwork, and overcoming challenges. The following quote from Jayde's running coach sums up the message she shared with the students. The students were inspired and uplifted by her story.
“From my perspective, your athletic experiences, both as an athlete and as a coach, were keys to your ability to deal with your illness, surgery, and recovery. You knew how to struggle without being defeated, and your coaching experience helped you understand that your fight wasn’t just about you; it was also for the people around you. I also think your story is a lesson into how to live life – don’t take anything for granted, fight for what you most want, stay close to the people you most love, and stay positive no matter how hard your circumstances might seem.” – David Griffin, Running Coach
Cathy Reese – Head Coach of University of Maryland Girls Lacrosse Team
Coach Reese is one of the most decorated coaches at the college level of sports and is currently the coach of the University of Maryland Girls Lacrosse team. As a high school player, she scored 170 goals in her final two seasons. She played lacrosse at the University of Maryland from 1994-1998 where she was named most valuable player. After graduating, she went on to become the assistant coach at Maryland. In 2004, she served as head coach at University of Denver, and then in 2007, she was offered the job as head coach at the University of Maryland. Coach Reese has many accomplishments including:
Led the Maryland Terps to five national championships
Is 8th among U.S. women’s lacrosse head coaches with 312 wins
Reached 200, 250, and 300 wins faster than any other coach
Has taken her team to 5 national championships, 11 final fours, and 20 conference championships over her 15 years as head coach
Is a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame, and was named the Inside Lacrosse Coach of the Decade for 2010-2019
During her presentation, Coach Reese spoke about the values that support an effective team. She shared how being part of a positive culture and community is very important, and that there is a great deal of power in positivity. The students learned that effective communication, collaboration, reaching out as a leader, and letting people know they are valued can really make a significant difference. Coach Reese also noted that the journey or process are important, and we must celebrate our successes no matter how big or small.
Amara Wiggan – Competitive Olympic Weightlifter and Former Division 1 Weight & Hammer Thrower
Amara Wiggan is a competitive Olympic weightlifter and former Division 1 weight and hammer thrower for the University of Florida track and field team. In the area of weightlifting, Amara has fifteen national medals, 3 national titles, is a Team USA member for the Youth Pan American Championships, and holds a level 1 coaching certification. In the area of track and field, Amara is a two time Academic All-American, 9th all time in the weight throw at University of Florida, and was top 25 in the final year of her career. She is currently a masters student at the University of Tennessee studying sport management and works part time at the campus recreation center and as a digital media assistant for the CrossFit Games.
Amara spoke about commitment, motivation, goal setting, trust and faith. Even though her sport is an individual sport, she talked about how she is part of a team. Each of the different competitors contribute to the success of the team. Amara spoke about resilience and how important it is to keep trying. Failure is part of growing. Even when things are challenging, it is important to persevere and “stick it out”. Amara ended her presentation by talking about how as athletes, it is important to have fun but also give back to the community. She shared some of the projects her team did to support those in need in their communities.
Peace Through Sport participants had the opportunity to learn about different sports, see women succeed in new roles, and gain a better understanding of how sport can motivate and empower people. Guest speakers shared their journey and experiences, values learned, and how to use sport as a tool to overcome the obstacles in their lives.