The Grassroot Project was originally founded in 2009 by Tyler Spencer and 39 other Georgetown University student-athletes. After learning that 1 in 20 DC residents was living with HIV—a statistic that rivaled some Sub-Saharan African countries—the founding athletes of The Grassroot Project wouldn't be caught witnessing the epidemic from the sidelines…they wanted to fight back. Tyler had three years of experience working on HIV prevention with soccer players in South Africa. He knew that sports could be used as an effective tool to break the ice around HIV prevention, and he also believed that student athletes were a tremendous untapped resource for addressing DC's public health crisis.
The Grassroot Project started small-with 40 athletes volunteering to run 8-week HIV prevention programs in four schools. Since 2009, however, our work has grown tremendously…we've now worked in more than 50 schools and community centers across DC, involved more than 900 student-athletes from four DC universities, and reached 5,000 DC teens with our programs. As we have grown, the rates of HIV have consistently declined, year after year. Unfortunately, DC teens still live in a city with an HIV prevalence of nearly 3%–we still have a lot of work to do.
Over the next few years, we are committed to continuing our HIV work, but we are also doing the research and raising the funds to launch additional health education curricula, particularly in physical health and mental health. To make this happen, we already have some great partners in the DC Public Schools, the Office of the State Superintendent, and a handful of other public and private partners.
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10 People | 39 Impacts | 174 Hours