Women's soccer's Jane Wallis traveled to St. Louis for reasons much different than competing against Atlantic 10 Conference rival Saint Louis University. The junior spent April 5-7 at Washington University attending the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), representing the Grassroot Project - an organization Wallis has been involved in for three years.
The Grassroot Project is an HIV/AIDS education program organized and carried out by NCAA Division I student-athletes from universities in Washington, D.C. The Grassroot Project uses interactive lessons to teach middle school students across the district the tools needed to make informed decisions as they mature, as well as reduce the prevalence of the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS. Wallis serves as the Project's program coordinator and has helped to double participation over the last year. Wallis earned GW Community Service Athlete of the Month honors in November for her dedication to the program.
Wallis' involvement in the Grassroot Project has included selection to the Grassroot Leaders Team and attendance at a three-day national conference in Orlando, Fla., for leadership training last summer. She was chosen to represent the organization at CGI U to present the Project's plan to expand its reach to parents and teachers of the current middle school participants.
CGI U selects college students from across the nation to share their innovative ideas to address and combat global issues. Over 1,000 students from more than 300 universities worldwide were in attendance presenting ideas in the hopes of either earning financial backing or establishing connections that might expedite the progression of the projects illustrated.
Wallis, a public health major, created the plan to expand the Grassroot Project after speaking with the parents of the middle school students in the program and realizing that some adults are just as uninformed about HIV and AIDS as the young students. Wallis' brainchild consists of a two-night condensed version of the education program with transportation funds, child care and a meal included.
While at CGI U, Wallis learned valuable information on how to garner relationships for funding the expansion of the Grassroot Project and made connections with several potential resources. However, one of the most important lessons learned in St. Louis may be the support of others to alleviate large scale issues.
"I learned of the willingness of the educational community to help others throughout the world, whether in public health programs, environmental sustainability initiatives or economic solutions," said Wallis. "Our generation is ready to help make 'opportunity' a more universal term."