For the safety and health of our student-athletes, staff, and the broader community, TGP suspended all programming and transitioned to a virtual work from home model beginning March 13th. While these decisions have been difficult, making sacrifices is necessary in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, as well as to do our part in flattening the curve and minimizing the overload of our health system. We encourage our followers to stay up-to-date on the latest advice, prevention measures, and health resources by visiting coronavirus.dc.gov. Over the last two weeks, we have had time to reflect and plan for the future, here is what we’ve learned and what we are doing:
Student-Athletes will go above and beyond for their community. Student-athlete volunteers with The Grassroot Project (also called “TGP Coaches”) are characterized in so many ways; they are role models who show teamwork, dedication, and commitment not only to their sport but also to their local community. That’s why, when it became clear that we would need to make the very difficult decision to suspend programming and other events, our TGP Coaches immediately started asking, “what can we do to help?”.
As university students across the nation face semesters cut short, graduation ceremonies canceled, and sports seasons abruptly ending, our student-athlete volunteers have continued to seek out opportunities to stay involved in the DC community. They are now working virtually with TGP staff to create content for virtual learning initiatives, analyze student data, engage and connect over webinars, inform curriculum updates, assist in fundraising, apply to present TGP initiatives at conferences, and more.
Adapt, adjust and keep moving forward. Just weeks ago, we were planning for the Annual Grassroots Gala and student-athlete volunteers were in 28 classrooms delivering health education programs to DC youth and building relationships along the way. Even our two high school interns were in schools facilitating our Physical Health & Nutrition curriculum in order to grow their facilitation and public speaking skills. In a matter of days, TGP, like organizations around our city, was faced with making the necessary decision to suspend our programming and change the course of planned projects for the unforeseeable future. We quickly adjusted and adapted, ensuring our staff and high school interns felt equipped with everything they needed to begin our new virtual normal. With our strong community and school relationships, we were also able to reach out to our partner schools, learn more about what needs they had, how they were going to approach distance learning, and in what ways we could help. The TGP family continues to show resilience as they strive to promote community health throughout DC.
We must maintain our support team, virtually! One of the core components of TGP culture is maintaining a strong team of supporters. In our sexual health curriculum, we teach students that there are 4 ways to stay strong that help us face up to adversity and make difficult decisions to stay resilient. In our mental health curriculum, we brought back a classic Grassroots game from the archives: “My Supporters!” In this activity, students explore how stigma can impact someone struggling with their mental health and how important it is to have a supportive group of people to encourage you to use your strengths, to help you achieve your goals, and to support you when you need it most. During an unprecedented time of uncertainty, we double down on our conviction that building and maintaining our support team, even though it may be virtual, is important. TGP Staff has been working to ensure we maintain consistent contact with our support team by having Zoom calls each morning and each afternoon all together. We are also staying closely in touch with our school and community partners and will continue to share our distance learning curriculum videos both publicly and directly with our school partners.
What can you do?
- Continue to take all necessary actions to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, ensuring everyone in our community is protected. Stay home, limit trips for essential items like groceries, and encourage your networks to do the same.
- Seek out your local non-profit organizations that are providing essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic and see what you can do to help them. Remember, helping VIRTUALLY may be the best way to build up your community.
- Engage in some self-care activities! This is the perfect time to recharge ourselves and get our energy back right! While this epidemic has everyone cooped up in their homes, we could all enjoy some peaceful, relaxing time with our loved ones.
Q & A with TGP Staff (written by Niambi & Mackenzie):
How has COVID-19 impacted your daily routine/work?
Jane: There is nothing I love more than being out in the community day-to-day and in the office feeling inspired by our TGP staff to innovate and create incredible health programming, but I also understand that I CAN contribute to keeping DC healthy right now if I do stay home. This is the perfect time to catch up on research, strategic planning, and curriculum improvements! We try to keep a strong daily routine by starting and ending each day with a Zoom staff call so we don’t lose that TGP family feel!
Tyler: I have committed to not leaving my house unless it’s for food or to exercise. It is a much more lonely existence, but it has taught me to appreciate a lot — the fact that we have technology and can still be connected, the realization that you can slow down and cook your own food (and not eat out/on the run all the time!), and the value of hanging out and socializing with neighbors, even from a distance.
Alex: In working part-time and going to graduate school full time, I am used to being out and about in DC for pretty long hours each day. With COVID-19 and the calls for self-isolation and staying in, my work and school responsibilities are all being transferred online. This is a unique shift and while, challenging in some ways, has created other interesting opportunities and some other silver linings. It’s a great opportunity to stay in my PJs all day while still getting more done, and learning how to communicate with people more creatively. I am currently bunkered down in Philly!
What are you doing to stay active and healthy while practicing social distancing?
RJ: During this time it is still very important to stay active and healthy. There are plenty of ways to be active while also social distancing! For example, everyday I try to go for a run or bike ride (making sure not to come into contact with anyone.) If the weather isn’t great, I do an indoor workout! As TGP has taught us there is more to being healthy than just being active, which is why I eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein! Along with this, I have been mindful of my mental health. I’ve been making sure to take brain breaks and do fun things throughout the day, like every couple of hours I’ll go outside or play some chess against my dad! I usually lose but it’s still fun!
Alex: To stay healthy during this time, I am catching up on sleep, going for runs as often as I can, stocking up on healthy foods for meals, and finding something fun to look forward to each day (whether it’s a group FaceTime with some old friends, watching a movie I enjoy, painting my nails, or reading a good book) – something to support my mental health! Having a daily schedule and keeping busy has been really helpful too.
Jane: I am all about building community, with or without the ability to see people in person. Whether it is at-home workouts with my roommates or checking in on someone I haven’t talked to recently on FaceTime or WhatsApp, this is the time to continue building community in any way we can. I stay healthy by staying connected.
Mackenzie: Keeping a routine has been helping me stay active over the last two weeks. Each morning, afternoon, and evening I take my dog on a walk and it’s really helped me unplug, get outside, and get moving. I am also working on starting some new habits that I think I can maintain in the future, like 15 minutes of in-home yoga each morning and getting a good night of sleep each night!
Tyler: I have been eating healthy food and have done a lot of running. TGP is going to be part of the upcoming Marine Corps Marathon, and I am trying to work up the fitness to be able to run again.
What are you doing to balance school/work?
Justin: I am balancing work and school by waking up early and staying on my daily school schedule of 8:45 am – 12:52 pm then taking a break before clocking in to do TGP work from 2 pm – 5 pm. The break in between used to be my commute time going into work, now I can use that time more effectively. I plan ahead to get most of my work completed before starting TGP work in the afternoon.
Niambi: What I’ve been doing lately to balance school and work is just scheduling/planning everything out so I can have enough time to get everything done. For example, I wake up at 11 am and check my emails and complete any assignments my teachers have emailed me, and then I check my emails from TGP and for any Urban Alliance updates, then I begin working on my TGP tasks for the day.