Since graduating, Zoe Jackson-Gibson ’16 has combined her two loves: soccer and serving those in need, through her work with aid organizations in Central America and the Caribbean. Most recently, she was an international volunteer coordinator for Bridges to Community, an agency that fights poverty in the developing world by bringing in volunteer groups to work on projects in health, education, housing and economic development.
“I worked with a diverse mix of business professionals, college students, religious groups and others who came to live and work in rural communities in Nicaragua,” says Jackson-Gibson, who worked with the volunteers to build houses. “I was living and working alongside them as their point person and leader.”
Jackson-Gibson says she enjoyed meeting and facilitating connections between the volunteers and the residents of Nicaragua, which she calls her “second home.” Helping to build sturdy houses for local families was, she believes, a win-win for all participants. “Building a home and knowing that a family would be able to pass it down from generation to generation is very moving,” she says.
In addition to her aid work, the former All-American member of the William Smith soccer team finds opportunities to participate in sports. “In Nicaragua I was part of my town’s first all-women futsal [a type of soccer played on a hard court] team in the men’s league, which brought some light to female athletes in the area,” she says.
Since returning to her hometown of Amherst, N.Y., Jackson-Gibson has helped coach the local high school team advance to the state championship. Before her work in Nicaragua, she volunteered in Costa Rica with Woza Soccer and for a year in Nicaragua with Soccer Without Borders, both aid groups that use sports as a vehicle for positive change.
The environmental studies major and sociology minor is not sure where she’s going next, but she knows she wants to continue to serve others. “No matter what route the next portion of my life takes, I know that working for aid organizations will have a major role,” she says.
Soccer will be there, too, she adds, thanking long-time William Smith women’s soccer coach Aliceann Wilber P’12 for her mentorship. “Through Aliceann, I was able to truly develop my leadership skills and become someone who is able to take on life outside of college successfully.”