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Who We Are

Our Story

Grassroots Health was founded in 2009 by Tyler Spencer and 39 other Georgetown University student-athletes. After learning that one in twenty DC residents are living with HIV—a statistic that rivaled some Sub-Saharan African countries—the founding athletes of Grassroots Health wouldn’t be caught witnessing the epidemic from the sidelines. They committed to fighting back. 

Tyler had years of experience working on HIV prevention with soccer players in South Africa. He saw how sports could be used as an effective tool to break the ice around HIV prevention, and believed that student-athletes were a tremendous untapped resource for addressing DC’s public health crisis.

Grassroots started small with an 8-week HIV prevention program in four schools, but has grown tremendously since then. We’ve now worked in more than 50 schools and community centers across DC, recruited more than 1,500 student-athletes from four DC universities, and reached over 10,000 DC youth 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%–so we still have work to do.

We are committed to continuing our HIV work, but since 2018, we have launched our additional health education curricula in nutritional health and mental health. Our three year pipeline enables our volunteers to work with the same youth for three consecutive years, build meaningful relationships, and discuss the health topics that impact their daily lives.

September – December 2008

Tyler works with a team of high school students and local health educators to adapt the South African soccer-based HIV prevention curriculum for use in DC.

December 2008

The first 40 Grassroot Coaches are recruited. They represent 9 sports teams at Georgetown University.

January 2009 – May 2009

The first group of Grassroot Coaches is trained, and TGP programs start at four local schools.

June 2009

MTV gives TGP the “Staying Alive Award” and $50,000 to support our growth. Months later, the DC Department of Health begins a 4-year grant partnership with TGP.

2009 – 2010

Athletes from George Washington University and Howard University join the TGP family.

2011

TGP receives a four-year grant from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to launch programs in 24 public and charter school classrooms.

2012

Bill Clinton interviews in an ABC News Exclusive, saying that TGP’s approach to HIV is “a great idea…better than anything I’ve come up with.”

2013

TGP adds athletes from the University of Maryland and begins new programs in Prince George’s County, Maryland

TGP meets Barbara Bush at the Clinton Global Initiative and joins forces with Bush’s nonprofit (Global Health Corps) to bring on our first full-time staff members

2014

TGP expands its footprint to more than 50 DC middle schools and begins launching community health fairs in partnership with the DC Department of Health and the DC Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development.

2015

TGP completes the first randomized controlled trial evaluation of a US-based sport-for-sexual health curriculum. The results show that our programs significantly improve students’ sexual health literacy.

2016

TGP begins working directly with the DC Public Schools and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to improve the overall adolescent health landscape for DC students – including HIV but also addressing other health disparities facing DC teens.

2017

TGP designs and launches Grassroots Fam and Grassroots Connect. Grassroots Fam is a three-session program aimed at helping to improve the frequency and effectiveness of conversations between caregivers/parents and their teens. Grassroots Connect is a linkage-to-care program that directly connects our students and their families to a range of clinical and social services related to our programs (e.g. health screenings, health insurance navigation, counseling services, etc). Both Grassroots Fam and Grassroots Connect complement our existing school-based programs, and they have helped us to be more holistic and comprehensive in our approach to adolescent health.

2018

TGP pilots and launches the new pipeline approach to adolescent health education based on the National Health Standards and community-led focus groups. Now in addition to the 6th-grade comprehensive sexual health curriculum, 7th-grade students complete a nutrition and physical health curriculum. This new curriculum is an innovative and community-based approach to increasing adolescent’s self-efficacy to make small, manageable changes to their daily nutrition and physical activity.

2019

TGP expands the pipeline to its final stage by researching and piloting a new mental health promotion program for 8th-grade students. This new curriculum includes sessions on mental health stigma reduction, emotional regulation, stress management, healthy & unhealthy coping mechanisms, interpersonal communication, problem-solving, bullying, mindfulness, and goal setting.

2020

TGP transitioned programming to a virtual platform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This allowed students to access full health education programs online both synchronously, facilitated by our student-athlete volunteers on ZOOM, and asynchronously as independent at-home work for students. TGP is now able to utilize these virtual lessons as a supplement to in person programming.

2021

The pandemic that never ends! TGP started the year still in a virtual program setting, but transitioned back to in-person in the fall of 2021. This marked the first period of students receiving the full-pipeline approach to health education with all 3 curricula being implemented by TGP student-athletes.

Through The Years
Through The Years
Staff
Tyler Spencer, Ph.D.
Tyler Spencer, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
Jane Wallis, M.P.H.
Jane Wallis, M.P.H.
Director of Programs and Operations
Katie Steinour, M.B.A.
Katie Steinour, M.B.A.
Development and Communications Manager
Ana Bonilla
Ana Bonilla
Program Intern
Alania James
Alania James
Communications Intern
Training Fellows
Partners

We would not be where we are today without our partners. If you are interested in joining us or learning more about our partnership opportunities PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Board
Tyler Spencer, Ph.D.
Tyler Spencer, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
Deidra Suber, M.B.A. (Vice Chair)
Deidra Suber, M.B.A. (Vice Chair)
Head of Sales and Operations at Stealth Startup
Craig Lejeune (Treasurer)
Craig Lejeune (Treasurer)
Senior Competitive Intelligence and Price-to-Win Manager at Caliburn International
Nick Turk
Nick Turk
Account Executive, AboveBoard
Ugwechi Amadi, Ph.D.
Ugwechi Amadi, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Strategy at NIKE, Inc
Richard Livingstone, M.P.A.
Richard Livingstone, M.P.A.
Public Servant in the DC Department of Housing and Community Development
Annual Reports
2021 Annual Report
2021 Annual Report
2020 Annual Report
2020 Annual Report
2019 Annual Report
2019 Annual Report
2018 Annual Report
2018 Annual Report
2017 Annual Report
2017 Annual Report