According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 20 adults in our nation’s capitol is HIV positive. Washington D.C. has by far the highest rate of new AIDS cases in the United States and it is over ten times the national average – higher than New York City, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit.
The Grassroots Project aims to educate middle school students about the threat and susceptibility of HIV through Division I student athlete role models. The project works with different organizations all over the city including D.C. public and charter schools, Boys & Girls Clubs, DC SCORES, MetroTeen AIDS, and the Latin American Youth Center.
The curriculum is based on the Grassroots Soccer program based in Africa, which is part of the fight against AIDS in that country. The idea is that kids learn the best from people they look up to and can trust, which is where the college athletes come in. “The Grassroot Project trains DC area college athletes in an extensive HIV prevention and life skills curriculum, and these athletes deliver the program within local schools.”
The kids and athletes play games and do activities that are conducive to open communication about AIDS, AIDS testing, myths about people with AIDS, as well as life skills like critical thinking, decision-making, communication and resiliency. After graduation from the program, the kids are expected to be advocates in their community for healthy living.
The program is staffed by over 40 D-I athletes from 10 teams around the city. These athletes are also receiving an education. By become “coaches,” these college students learn about social injustice, compassion and education and interaction with an underserved demographic.
Last year, the Grassroots Project launched the Team Up project. This initiative paired middle school students from D.C. with students from Soweto, South Africa. For six weeks the teammates both participated in the same program. They were also given video cameras to record themselves and really get to know each other and hopefully promote discussion between the two kids. The project all lead up to a ten day trip for the D.C. students to South Africa to participate in an AIDS awareness event and attend the World Cup.
The Grassroots Project is another 2011 Echoing Green Semifinalist organization.
photo via Flickr by reway2007