GW student-athletes raise awareness about HIV/AIDS education at weekend football tournament

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September 2, 2011

George Washington University student-athletes who don’t usually play soccer will play around a soccer ball on Sunday, September 4, for a good time and a good cause – educating elementary and middle school students about HIV and AIDS.

GW student-athletes will participate in Grassroot Fest, an event designed to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, DC, and raise funds to fund HIV/AIDS awareness and education programs from The Grassroot Project.

The 7-on-7 football tournament is being played at Howard University and is being filmed for an episode of “Everyday Health,” a new series from online health site Everyday Health, which will air as part of Litton’s Weekend Adventure on the ABC affiliates, including ABC-owned stations.

It’s only natural that GW student-athletes want to get 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 sport to educate at-risk youth about the dangers of HIV and AIDS. Student-athletes from Howard and Georgetown University also participate in the project.

“Student-athletes undergo intensive training in a program that creates a fun, friendly environment in which children learn about healthy lifestyles,” said Grassroot Project founder Tyler Spencer, who rowed in Georgetown and knows how. children look up to athletes as role models and look up to their schools.

“Grassroot Fest is all about fundraising, awareness and fun,” Spencer said. “It’s also gratifying to get national recognition, and there will be a surprise from the producers,” Spencer said.

GW chapter president Grassroot Colonials said he was excited about the tournament.

“It really brings the program together in solidarity,” said Cameron Chen, senior men’s heavyweight rowing team. “Although the Colonials, Hoyas and Bison operate out of different DC schools, this project is the collaborative effort of everyone in the organization.”

“The idea of ​​using athletes as role models for children is an interesting and effective approach,” said Chen, who is majoring in international affairs and political science with a minor in Japanese. “These programs need as much attention and sponsorship as possible to stay active and effective and this tournament provides both.”

Spencer said he started Grassroot Hoyas in January 2009 because he was shocked to learn of the district’s high HIV/AIDS rate and lack of youth-focused organizations. GW came on board later that year and Howard followed in 2010.

Approximately 60 to 70 GW student-athletes have completed the training and worked with fifth and sixth graders. Additionally, researchers from the School of Public Health and GW Health Services are investigating whether the project was effective in raising awareness of HIV and AIDS among DC students.

The NCAA recognized student-athletes from GW, Georgetown, and Howard cooperating on Project Grassroot with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) Achievement Award in 2010.

The exact air date for the Everyday Health episode featuring The Grassroot Project has yet to be determined. For more information on the show, go to EverydayHealth.com/TV.

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