On January 29, Grassroots Health concluded the final session of its 16-hour “Athletes to Coaches” training course. This course is designed to equip college athletes with the knowledge and skills necessary to become volunteer health education facilitators in DC schools.
The newly-trained college athlete volunteers, now “Grassroots Coaches”, are ready to take on their role as health promoters in the DC community. They will use the information they learned during this training to facilitate 10-week health education classes in partnership with 6 DC Public Charter Schools, reaching over 600 students in the Spring 2023 semester.
The 88 collegiate athletes from 4 universities in DC were trained to deliver our innovative, sports-based health messages and guidance to their peers. This is a vital step forward in the world of Grassroots Health, as it allows us to reach more young people directly with practical plans and strategies to stay healthy while playing sports.
Georgetown, Howard, George Washington, and American University student-athletes are serving as health educators in the community. Take a look at who came out from each school. Football and women’s soccer took home the prize for most student-athletes this semester, but what is particularly special is that we had Football players from both Georgetown and Howard Universities, and women’s soccer players from GW, American, and Howard! It’s truly special to see competitors on the field come together to work in their community.
Grassroots Health’s DC Program team, inclusive of Darien Thomas, Lara Negrón Ocasio (GW Women’s Rowing alum), Ana Avalos, and Asia Horne (AU Women’s Soccer alum) spent countless hours recruiting, planning, and executing these trainings. Their care and dedication to building a culture that allows all athletes to be successful is truly a testament to their commitment to helping student-athletes make a difference.
“Training new athletes is an incredibly high-energy and exciting time for us – I love being able to watch athletes practice facilitating the games from our curriculum, learn about health equity in our city, and prepare themselves to roll up their sleeves and begin to build relationships with DC youth. We’ve seen from years of experience that well-trained athletes can have a deep and lasting impact on promoting health for DC youth,” said Tyler Spencer, Founder, and Executive Director.
While Grassroots Health program staff sets the strategy for these training sessions, an important key to this work is Grassroots Health “Training Fellows”, experienced student-athletes trained in the foundations of our “training of trainers” model who exemplify strong facilitation of our curricula in training. Not only does this peer training method prove effective for new volunteers, but it also provides the opportunity for student-athletes involved in Grassroots Health to grow and expand their skills in adult facilitation and implementation of health education programs. Shoutout to the Training Fellows who helped make both DC and Philadelphia training possible with the semester!
- Alayah Hightower, Howard Women’s Soccer
- Andrea Fierve, Howard Women’s Lacrosse
- Heidi Chicas, Howard Women’s Lacrosse
- Talia Coryatt, Howard Women’s Lacrosse
- Ian Wheeler, Howard Football
- Gerone Hamilton, Jr., Howard Football
- Niah Woods, Howard (retired athlete)
- Kevon Elzey, Howard (retired athlete)
- Lizzy Cruz, GW Women’s Soccer
- Genevieve Mumma, GW Sailing
- Beth Ellinport, GW Women’s Soccer (alum)
- Celeste Noraian, GW Women’s Rowing
- Jane Reffelt, American Women’s Lacrosse
- Juliana Saling, American Women’s Soccer (alum)
- Helen Feldmeth, Georgetown Women’s Rowing
Understanding our physical, mental, and interpersonal health is vital to living successful and happy lives, but all too often we don’t provide young people with the knowledge and skills to promote their own health. Division 1 student-athletes have to prioritize their nutrition, physical, sexual, and mental health in order to compete at the highest intercollegiate sports level while also maintaining academic standing at elite universities: this makes them incredible near-peer role models for youth. But, in Grassroots, we also believe athletes have just as much to learn about the city they are going to college in. Grassroots Health volunteers will not just be teaching what they learn from Grassroots Health training to DC middle schoolers but will be learning about the DC community, learning from and about these young students, and creating a symbiotic connection that helps to grow the community connection between DC universities and the surrounding community.
More than 1,800 DC college student-athletes have been trained to be Grassroots Health volunteers over the last 13 years. The power, culture, and energy found at Grassroots Health trainings is an unparalleled experience. We can’t wait to see what these athletes learn in their community, and how they continue to advance health equity throughout college and beyond. SHOUT OUT!