The Grassroot Hoyas program was the first initiative within The Grassroot Project and engaged student athletes from Georgetown University. From this pilot program, The Grassroot Project will create a framework from which initiatives at other universities in Washington, D.C. can develop and achieve the vision of the organization.

From Athletes to Coaches: Training

The program began in January 2009 with the Athletes2Coaches training at which time 40 Division-1 athletes from over 10 different sports at Georgetown University were trained in as coaches. The A2C training involved intensive 4-day training seminars that taught the athletes about HIV/AIDS, how to facilitate activities, and how to lead the programs in the community. The course was conducted in a “teach back” style, where participating athletes had a chance to practice facilitating activities from the curriculum to their fellow athletes. At the end of this training, the athletes were recognized in a graduation ceremony and were prepared to implement the knowledge and skill set they learned in the Grassroot Hoyas programs.

Roll Out: The Programs

The Grassroot Hoyas pilot program involved six unique programs ranging from after-school programs at middle schools to athletic training.

Three programs were initiated as after school programs at D.C middle schools. Two programs took place at Francis Stevens Middle School and Browne Gibbs Young Middle School, each once a week and involved around 15 middle school students. The final after-school program was at Jelleff Middle School once a week. These programs lasted for approximately 10 weeks, and culminated in a graduation ceremony once the participant had been exposed to at least 15 hours of educational games.

The Grassroot Hoyas pilot program ended with a public graduation held at Georgetown University. The ceremony rewarded the youth participants for completing the program, recognizing all that they had learned, and gave them their first chance to expose this knowledge to those who were not direct participants in the program. During the graduation, they facilitated an activity to the graduation attendees, which consisted of their parents, family, and friends, important community officials, and the media. By participating in the program, they become part of the Grassroot team, and they are adopted as honorary members of the Georgetown Hoyas.

Grassroot Hoyas had the opportunity to lead a program for two weekends at CityYear’s Young Heroes Program which occurred on February 7th and 21st, 2009. Forty high school students signed up and participated in this program. This event provided a unique opportunity for Grassroot Hoyas to gain the valuable input of high school students and to lay the foundation for future connections. Several of the high school participants expressed an interest in becoming involved in the implementation of the curriculum at the middle schools, which is in line with the expansion of The Grassroot Project.

The Grassroot Hoyas program also had the opportunity to build connections for future initiatives when it was involved in a special event for the National Boys & Girls Club Week held in Washington, D.C. This event involved participants from all eight of the Boys and Girls Clubs in the D.C. metropolitan area. Ultimately, this program allowed GrassrootHoyas to demonstrate the peer education curriculum to future partners and to prove its effectiveness. Collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club is and will continue to be a vital component to the overall growth and success of The Grassroot Project.

 A final component of the Grassroot Hoyas program is a two-week long sports training program coordinated with DC Scores and with members of the Georgetown University Women’s Soccer Team. This program splits the time evenly between sports-specific training, soccer, and the HIV/AIDS prevention curriculum. In the future, training programs using other sports can be initiated. Sport-specific programs tap into a new audience and develop a unique structure to achieve the vision and goals of The Grassroot Project.

The Future

As the pilot program, Grassroot Hoyas provided a framework from which programs at the other universities in Washington, D.C. can be developed. In order to create a successful model for future programs, evaluation of the six Grassroot Hoyas initiatives is essential. Two student monitoring and evaluation interns were selected from Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies. As part of their academic program, they worked to combine the evaluation methods of both GrassrootSoccer and MetroTeenAIDS to create an evaluation tool for the Grassroots projects. The evaluation involved basic data collection from pre- and post-quizzes which were taken by the middle school participants as well as feedback from the students and coaches regarding the overall structure of the program, the curriculum, effectiveness of the peer education, etc. Once completed, the evaluation and monitoring of the GrassrootHoyas pilot program assisted in the creation of a solid framework from which the Grassroot Project expanded into other universities, as well as other middle schools.

Besides developing an effective structure for future growth, the Grassroot Hoyas pilot program was also successful in creating connections for future programs. Through both the special program at the National Boys and Girls Club Week and the CityYear’s Young Heroes Program, the foundation has been laid to establish lasting partnerships with both local organizations and high school youth. Through the combination of these connections and the development of a structure for future programs, Grassroot Hoyas has set the stage for The Grassroot Project to successfully obtain its vision of providing HIV/AIDS prevention peer education to all at-risk youth in Washington, D.C.