by Alania James
Talia Coryat, a rising senior at Howard University, has used her time as a college student to give back to the DC community. She is a leader among her peers in an organization called Grassroots. Grassroots trains hundreds of athletes, like Talia, to become coaches and natural leaders. Those athletes return to train upcoming fellows and pilot events to broaden understanding of nutritional health, sexual health, and mental health standards for middle school students. In addition to Howard, student athletes in Grassroots hail from Georgetown University, George Washington University, and American University.
Talia is thrilled to be a part of Grassroots and engage with middle school students. She mentions one of the most important factors of the program is how it is designed to make the middle school students feel more comfortable to open up and talk, because they are building strong relationships with their college-aged mentors. Talia speaks of one of her favorite memories being when she first began teaching a class in the fall, the class was not talking nor participating with her. It took some time for them to warm up to her, but by the end of the sessions, the students claimed they were going to miss her and wanted to see her again in the following year. Talia explains this feeling as, “so fulfilling to know that I’ve made the kids feel seen and heard”
Another amazing leader on the Women’s Lacrosse team is Alayah Hightower who is a recent Howard MBA graduate. Alayah played both Lacrosse and Soccer for Howard University and has worked with Grassroots since 2018. Aside from school and playing sports, she acts as a training fellow with Grassroots. Alayah’s recent experience includes working at KIPP Will Shaw Academy where she was teaching sexual health to 7th graders and mental health to 8th graders. Her most memorable experience was at Center City PCS at the Brightwood campus where she still is in touch with some of the students. When thinking back on her experience with Grassroots, Alayah explained how “[Giving back] ended up being a part of my lifestyle”, and that she “didn’t realize how important giving back was until I became part of Grassroots.”
Howard University athletics has been a major part of Grassroots since its initial involvement in 2011. Fourteen student athletes on the Women’s Lacrosse team currently volunteer with Grassroots, and have a colossal total of 107 hours for this past school year, more than any other school Grassroots partners with. Grassroots does a great job of establishing local, collegiate student athletes to drive the work they do in middle schools. The story of these Howard students only shows just the tip of the iceberg of the impact and strength of both the Howard community and Grassroots.