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US Law Helps International Students Attend College, Play Sports

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The United States federal law that requires women and men to have the same chances to take part in school activities, such as sports, is turning 50 years old this year.

It is the part of a federal law known as Title IX. It affects educational organizations, such as schools and colleges, which receive money from the federal government.

One goal of the law is to give women and girls a fair chance to play sports at school and to receive the same treatment as men and boys. As a result, many women who are good at sports have been able to also get financial aid for college.

The law even helps people who are from other countries.

For Maria Bulanova of Russia, Title IX means she was able to compete in her sport of bowling and to get money to go to school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Maria Bulanova, a member of the Professional Women's Bowling Association and an assistant coach at St. Francis College, practices at Kingpin's Alley and Family Center, Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Glens Falls, N.Y. Title IX has opened the door for thousands of female athletes from abroad to get an American education and a shot at a life and career in the United States. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

Maria Bulanova, a member of the Professional Women’s Bowling Association and an assistant coach at St. Francis College, practices at Kingpin’s Alley and Family Center, Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Glens Falls, N.Y. Title IX has opened the door for thousands of female athletes from abroad to get an American education and a shot at a life and career in the United States. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

She was surprised the head of the bowling team learned about her “all the way from Russia.”

Bulanova was a part of the Russian team at the 2015 bowling World Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada. She did well enough that a number of coaches from university bowling teams noticed her. During one week in February 2016, she visited five U.S. colleges. She chose to attend Vanderbilt.

She said Vanderbilt offered a good education and the chance to be on a good bowling team that might win a U.S. college championship.

“Vanderbilt had both, and that was perfect,” she said.

Now Bulanova gets money for bowling with the Professional Women’s Bowling Association, and she is working on a master’s degree at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. She is also coaching the bowling team there.

A national championship

Bulanova was not the only international bowler on the team at Vanderbilt, which won the national championship in 2018. Kristin Quah of Singapore and Emily Rigney of Australia were also members.

FILE - Many women are able to go to school and play sports at Vanderbilt University because of Title IX. Vanderbilt head coach Shea Ralph, center, at the women's Southeastern Conference tournament Wednesday, March 2, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

FILE – Many women are able to go to school and play sports at Vanderbilt University because of Title IX. Vanderbilt head coach Shea Ralph, center, at the women’s Southeastern Conference tournament Wednesday, March 2, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

John Williamson is Vanderbilt’s bowling coach. He said he considers his team a “success story.” His team is good at the sport. And, because the school has a bowling team, he can help young women come to Tennessee and get a “world class education” at Vanderbilt.

He said the combination of good competition, the chance to play the sport and to go to a good school is “sort of the best of everything.”

Quah was the first of the three international bowlers on that championship team to reach out to Vanderbilt. She sent an email to the university as a member of the Singapore junior national team. Williamson went to see her at that year’s world youth championship in Hong Kong. He also saw Bulanova and Rigney.

Oregon golfer Tze-Han Lin gestures to teammates on the first green during the NCAA college women's golf championship title match against Stanford, at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Tze-Han Lin, like many other international athletes playing college sports in the United States, had little sense of Title IX when they were teenagers. But the federal law has opened the door for thousands of female athletes to get an American education and a shot at a career. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Oregon golfer Tze-Han Lin gestures to teammates on the first green during the NCAA college women’s golf championship title match against Stanford, at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Tze-Han Lin, like many other international athletes playing college sports in the United States, had little sense of Title IX when they were teenagers. But the federal law has opened the door for thousands of female athletes to get an American education and a shot at a career. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Williamson said Quah’s email was the starting point.

Because they were good at bowling, Bulanova and Quah got money to help pay for school – a deal called a scholarship.

Agencies help athletes get attention

For other foreign students who are good at sports, it can be helpful to work with a sports agency. The agency helps promote the athletes to universities that are looking.

But the agencies do that work in return for payment. One such agency is USA College Sport based in Boston. It is run by Deljan Bregasi of Albania. He was a soccer player who came to study and play sports in the U.S. when he was young.

He started the business in 2015. Bregasi said he has helped 300 students get money to go to college since then. He charges each student $3,200.

He started by working with boys who played soccer in Italy and Albania. Then he added other sports and started working with young women in 2018.

He said “sadly” the chance to use ability in a sport to help pay for school is not available to girls in Italy.

FILE - Arizona's Sage Watson, right, raises her arms in victory as she defeated Southern California's Anna Cockrell to win the women's 400 hurdles during the NCAA outdoor college track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, June 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

FILE – Arizona’s Sage Watson, right, raises her arms in victory as she defeated Southern California’s Anna Cockrell to win the women’s 400 hurdles during the NCAA outdoor college track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, June 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

He said Title IX “fortunately…allows them to practice sport with a scholarship.”

Bregasi said his agency is trying to help Italian girls who play volleyball and compete in track and field come to the U.S. The Italian girls in those sports play at a very high level, he said, and they have a good chance of getting money for school in the U.S.

Serena Frolli is a 17-year-old runner from Genoa, Italy. She got help from a sports agency and will go to Chicago later this year to study at Northwestern University. The school gave her a scholarship because of her running ability. She will be on Northwestern’s track and field team.

She said working with an agency was costly, but it was worth it because her school costs will be paid by the university.

She said, because of Title IX, she does not have to choose between running races and studying mechanical engineering. She wants to be an astronaut one day.

“Why should I choose?” she asked. “That is why I’m going to the United States.”

Two college golfers have similar stories. One is Aline Krauter of Germany. The other is Tze-Han Lin of Taiwan. They both came to school in the U.S. so they could keep playing their sport and get a good education.

Stanford golfer Aline Krauter walks off the first green after her putt during the NCAA college women's golf championship title match at Grayhawk Golf Club against Oregon, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Stanford golfer Aline Krauter walks off the first green after her putt during the NCAA college women’s golf championship title match at Grayhawk Golf Club against Oregon, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Krauter went to Stanford University in California while Lin went to the University of Oregon. The teams finished first and second at the recent women’s college golf championship.

Lin said she was thankful Title IX gave her a chance to play golf and pay for school costs.

“I don’t think I would have gotten that anywhere else in the world,” she said.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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Words in This Story

coach– n. a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer

master’s degree –n. a degree that is given to a student by a college or university usually after one or two years of additional study following a bachelor’s degree

promote – v. to bring something to people’s attention so they know more about it or want to take part in it

allow – v. to permit someone to do some activity

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