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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Prior to their arrival on Penn State's campus, a trio from the women's lacrosse team were already great ambassadors for their school and their sport. Freshmen Maria Auth, Madison Cunningham, and Katie Schluederberg traveled to Jamaica in July as a part of Fields of Growth, a volunteer program that connects athletes and local kids together.
The mission trip was a week trip in Kingston, Jamaica. They heard about the opportunity to share their love for lacrosse from fellow teammate, freshman Yasmain Hamood, who had participated in mission trips with the same program before.
There were 20 other volunteers on the girls' trip, mostly fellow lacrosse players and coaches.
"We ran free clinics almost every day we were there," Schluederberg said.
Auth added that in the mornings during the week they worked with high school students, but also traveled to visit the elderly and brought care packages to Dupont Primary School. The girls also visited Maxfield Park Children's Home and hung out with the kids.
The girls brought bags of clothing, lacrosse equipment, and toys to give away during their stay. Auth said she gave away all her extra lacrosse sticks so that the kids could keep playing after the volunteers left.
"The last day when we gave out all our donations, you give stuff to girls who have been doing well in the camp or the girls who you think might need them," Cunningham said. "And there was this little girl who I noticed her shoes were bothering her."
Cunningham saw that the girl's toes were popping out of the top of her shoes, so later that night she set out to find a replacement pair.
"We spent all night looking for a pair of shoes for her," Cunningham said. "So that was really cool when I gave her the shoes and she was so happy."
All three talked about how although the trip's primary focus was on lacrosse and sports, they were mostly impacted by the relationships they built with the local children.
"It's pretty awesome that we were able to make that connection after just a week," Auth said, who added she keeps in contact with the girls she met through Instagram.
The three Nittany Lions were also grateful for the opportunity the trip provided for them to get to know one another before starting their first year at Penn State. All three credit the trip for creating their unique bond.
Currently, all three have settled in to their first semester of college, and have started to get into the swing of things during fall workouts. The Nittany Lions have competed in several fall tournaments so far, and the freshmen have absorbed a lot from these games.
"It's a good change of pace from scrimmaging each other every day," Auth said. "It's going to be cool to see where we're at right now and then in a couple months in February when we have our first game, how much we've improved over that time."
The Nittany Lions conclude their fall schedule this weekend, hosting contests against Syracuse, Temple, and Cornell this Saturday, Oct. 15.