It’s been a privilege to be on staff with The Grassroot Project (TGP) as the Core Programs Manager through a fellowship with the Global Health Corps.
Wow, what a year! It’s been a privilege to be on staff with The Grassroot Project (TGP) as the Core Programs Manager through a fellowship with the Global Health Corps. It’s hard to believe that in a couple short weeks, I will be ending my fellowship and Charles Rominiyi will take over as the 2015-2016 TGP Core Programs Manager.
As a Division I swimmer for Towson University and then an HIV research assistant at Johns Hopkins University, I was very excited about joining TGP last July as a way to merge my passion for sports and HIV fieldwork. As a Program Manager, I’ve enjoyed getting to know our student athletes and coordinating our school programs. Some of my favorite days were those in which I got to see our programs in action on site visits. I enjoyed watching students who began The Grassroot Project wary of TGP and if learning about HIV and health education could actually be fun— turn into students who would write us letters stating how much they will miss having Grassroot in their classroom. I’ve loved watching students open up to our coaches with honest questions about sex and HIV, clearly demonstrating the level of comfort our coaches have created in the classroom.
Most recently, another experience that stands out was our time in South Africa with the Leadership Academy. We had visitors from sport for development organizations in South Africa see some of our programs this past fall through the US Department of State’s SportsUnited sports diplomacy exchange. When I went to say goodbye to one of the participants, she told me it wasn’t goodbye; it was “see you later.” During the winter, TGP began planning a trip to visit South Africa. In June, we brought six of our standout athletes who are engaged in a one year leadership development program along with TGP staff for a two week learning trip to Cape Town, Franschhoek, and Johannesburg. I’ll never forget the excitement of then being on a soccer field marveling at the opportunity to be on the other side of that “see you later” with the woman I met in the fall, as both of our teams participated in each organization’s games. This trip also encouraged me to think critically about the systems of poverty- not only in South Africa, but here in Washington, D.C. as well. This trip created the opportunity to see how global and local action can coincide to affect social change.
I am sad to leave The Grassroot Project and will miss the incredible energy and positivity that TGP exudes. Every time I tell someone about my work with TGP, I am met with enthusiastic responses such as, “Wow, that’s really cool!” or “What a neat way to use sports!” I couldn’t agree more. The unique model of TGP turned me into a believer of our work and thus, I look forward to supporting the organization post-fellowship. I’m excited for our new Program Manager, Charles Rominiyi to lead The Grassroot Project’s programming during the 2015-2016 school year. Charles comes to The Grassroot Project with strong public health experience, including working as a Youth Health Educator at Whitman Walker Health, where he collaborated with the D.C. Department of Health to conduct school based HIV testing through the School Based Screening Program. On behalf of the TGP staff, we are grateful to have Charles on our team!
Thank you to the TGP staff, student athletes, partners and especially my co-fellow Rodrigo Stein, Program Manager of Student Athlete Development, for an excellent year. I look forward to carrying these experiences with me in future sport for development work.