Kaitlyn Preheim and Jennifer Scott are lifelong friends who were Sunday school classmates and youth group members at Zion Mennonite Church, Elbing, before going to Bethel and ultimately graduating in 2014 with majors in social work. They now live in Merriam, and they are experienced travel buddies – most recently this past August, when they went to Rio de Janeiro to volunteer at the Summer Olympics. Alumni Relations Director Brad Kohlman ’07 caught up with the pair to find out more.
Brad Kohlman: How did you get the idea to volunteer at the Rio Olympics?
Jen and Kaitlyn: We actually stole the idea from Dr. [Allison] McFarland [professor of business] who volunteered at the Sochi Winter Olympics [in 2014]. A long time ago, we made a list of places we wanted to travel together. One of the places on our list was to go to the Olympics. Volunteering seemed like the best bet to make that happen.
BK: What process did you have to go through to become volunteers?
J&K: We signed ourselves up in September 2014 and participated in online tutorials and trainings throughout the two years leading up to the Olympics.
BK: Where were you able to volunteer?
J&K: Kaitlyn contacted the head of volunteer services once in Rio, and was assigned to track cycling. Her job duties consisted of running the scoreboard, including entering stats and medal placings. Jennifer was a time- and scorekeeper for golf, using a tablet and laser to track how far each golf athlete hit the ball.
BK: Outside of volunteering, what did you experience?
J&K: We were there for one month. What stood out the most were the local foods—we ate a lot of rice and beans!
We were able to sightsee, as well as experience some Olympic events as spectators. We watched gymnastics, diving, volleyball, beach volleyball, fencing and track, including watching Usain Bolt run the 200m dash.
We experienced the Olympic boulevard, an area where fans and athletes could come together, view the Olympic torch and just hang out. We went to the beach, went out to eat and experienced the night life.
We stayed in an apartment with a great host, Neto. He was extremely kind, showed us around and taught us how to use the eight different forms of transportation.
The Brazilian people were all wonderful. We never once felt threatened or scared. If anything, they were welcoming and wanted to make sure “the Americans” had a great time.
BK: Reflect on how Bethel impacted your experience in Rio.
J&K: Our time at Bethel shaped us into the people we are today. At Bethel, we learned the value of volunteering, and gained a sense of adventure, with a desire to learn and grow, by experiencing other places and cultures.
We also wouldn’t have thought to volunteer if we hadn’t gotten the idea from Dr. McFarland.
From a social-work perspective, which we both have degrees in from Bethel, we felt like we were equipped to live among the Brazilians instead of staying in a tourist hotel. It was easy for both of us to mingle and talk with people from other cultures. A lot of that was instilled in us from our time at Bethel.