College of Staten Island women’s volleyball star and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President Victoria Wong was selected as one of 16 student-athletes who will head to Cuba Friday as part of the 7th CUNYAC Goodwill Tour.
The historic trip set over the spring break recess is designed for the students along with 10 staffers to immerse themselves in the Cuban culture and provide community service to people of the nation in need.
Wong was chosen to represent CSI with good reason. The standout libero recently completed her junior season as the team’s captain. As SAAC president she was part of the most recent NCAA Convention held in San Antonio, Texas, in January, spreading the CSI and CUNYAC SAAC experience with colleagues and taking valuable information from the trip back to campus. Wong is looking forward to the same benefits of the trip to Cuba.
“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” Wong said. “Traveling to Cuba to promote athletics and being able to share the love of sports that I have to other athletes and children in Cuba has elevated the excitement of this trip for me. To be chosen for something like the Goodwill Tour is such a blessing.”
The once-in-a-lifetime trip will begin Friday with a tour of the capital city of Havana, a colorful city, known for its Spanish colonial architecture. There, CUNY student-athletes will get an overview of Cuban life, culture and customs. They will have an opportunity to visit Old Havana, the port entryway where 1950s American-made cars line the streets and salsa emanates from clubs and cabarets. The tour will include stops to view the historic fort built in the 1700s, as well the Capitol Square, which seated the Cuban Congress until 1959.
The trip will continue with a scenic excursion to the west coast of Cuba, including the Pinar del Rio region. The city is located in a major tobacco-growing area and is the center of Cuba’s famous cigar and rum industries.
Later in the trip, CUNY students-athletes will look to meet with several Cuban athletic greats, including baseball legend Omar Linares, who is considered one of the greatest Cuban baseball players of all-time. They will also have an opportunity to attend a baseball game at National Stadium. Most importantly, while in Havana, CUNY students will take part in a clinic for local youth at the training center and will also spend time visiting a local hospital.
The Goodwill Tour will then venture onto its second destination — Cienfuegos, a city located on the southern coast of Cuba. Nicknamed the “Pearl of the South” because of the beauty of its bay, it features many French influences and a bustling port.
While stopped, CUNY student-athletes will tour the city of Trinidad and the site of the Bay of Pigs Invasion — the failed 1961 U.S. Invasion, which attempted to overthrow Fidel Castro.
The tour will end with a scenic hike in Topes de Collantes — a nature reserve park in the mountain ranges of Cuba, highlighted by many beautiful waterfalls. The trip will conclude on May 1 with a return trip home to New York City.
“It’s a 10-day journey that will give me the experience of a lifetime,” Wong noted. “Not only are we visiting a place that has been closed off for so many years, but being able to meet Cuban athletes, visiting children’s hospitals, being in the Cuban Olympic center and holding a sports clinic makes this trip so much more rewarding. Sharing the passion I have for the sport that I have been playing for seven years with others makes me incredibly excited.”
Previously, the Goodwill Tour has made stops in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Argentina, South Africa, Italy and New Orleans. The trips are designed to immerse students in once-in-a-lifetime, out-of-classroom experiences that embody the diverse culture of the CUNY itself. Each of the past trips incorporated community service and goodwill actions coupled at times with competitive play. This year’s trip, according to Ivkovic, is a groundbreaking one.
“Our scholar-athletes will have an extremely rare view of America’s playground of the 1950s,” he said. “Cuba is a place which many consider to be an exotic, lively place where time stood still, with a population that is warm, resourceful and defiant. This is indeed an opportunity that very few Americans can say they have seen and enjoyed since the late 1950s.”