GW Student-Athletes Raise Awareness for HIV/AIDS Education in Weekend Soccer Tournament
Sept. 2, 2011
George Washington University student-athletes who typically don't play soccer will be kicking around a soccer ball on Sunday, Sept. 4, for a good time and a good cause - educating elementary and middle school students about HIV and AIDS.
GW student-athletes will be taking part in Grassroot Fest, an event designed to increase awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C., and raise money to fund the HIV/AIDS awareness and education programs of The Grassroot Project.
The 7 vs. 7 Soccer Tournament is being played at Howard University and is being filmed for an episode of "Everyday Health," a new series by the online health site, Everyday Health, which will air as part of Litton's Weekend Adventure on ABC affiliates, including ABC-owned stations.
It's only natural that the GW student-athletes want to be involved in Grassroot Fest. That's because at least 30 GW student-athletes representing 11 sports participate in Grassroot Colonials, a partner of The Grassroot Project, which uses sports to educate at-risk youth about the dangers of HIV and AIDS. Student-athletes from Howard and Georgetown University also participate in the project.
"The student-athletes undergo intensive training in a curriculum that creates a fun and friendly environment in which kids learn healthy lifestyles," said Grassroot Project founder Tyler Spencer, who rowed at Georgetown and knows how kids look up to athletes as role models and admire their schools.
"Grassroot Fest is about raising money and awareness and having fun," Spencer said. "It's also gratifying to get national recognition, plus there will be a surprise from the producers," Spencer said.
The president of GW's chapter, Grassroot Colonials, said he is excited about the tournament.
"It really brings together the program in solidarity," said Cameron Chen, a senior on the men's heavyweight rowing team. "Although the Colonials, Hoyas and Bison operate at different schools within D.C., this project is the collaborative effort of everyone in the organization."
"The idea to use athletes as role models for kids is an interesting and effective approach," said Chen, who majors in international affairs and political science with a minor in Japanese. "These programs need as much attention and sponsorship as possible to remain active and effective and this tournament brings both."
Spencer said he started Grassroot Hoyas in January 2009 because he was shocked to learn about the district's high HIV/AIDS rate and the lack of organizations focusing on young people. GW came aboard later that year and Howard followed in 2010.
About 60 to 70 GW student-athletes have been through the training and have worked with fifth and sixth graders. Also, researchers at GW's School of Public Health and Health Services are studying whether the project has been effective in raising HIV and AIDS awareness among D.C. students.
The NCAA recognized the student-athletes at GW, Georgetown and Howard cooperating on The Grassroot Project with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Award of Excellence in 2010.
The exact air date for the episode of Everyday Health featuring The Grassroot Project has not yet been determined. For more information about the show, please visit EverydayHealth.com/TV.