For Immediate Release
May 14, 2012
Contacts: Neil Tickner, 301 405 4622 or email@example.com
UMD Student Gift Funds AIDS Prevention in Maryland Schools
School of Public Policy Class Awards $15,000 to Educate Middle Schoolers
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - When University of Maryland Professor of the Practice Robert Grimm's students present their annual major charitable contribution this week, there will be a twist that doubles the impact: Not only will they fund an innovative program in HIV/AIDS prevention for Maryland Middle Schoolers, but they'll be engaging fellow UMD students - NCAA Division I athletes - to handle the instruction.
Since 2010, students who take Grimm's "Art and Science of Philanthropy" class in the School of Public Policy have gotten a unique chance to learn about giving back by actually acting as a miniature philanthropic group. At the end of each semester, the students award $15,000 to a charity of their choice.
This spring's undergraduate class, offered through the Honors College, has decided to help the community by funding a group that works to prevent HIV/AIDS - one that draws on university athletes to present the health information.
On Wednesday, May 16, the class will hold its award ceremony, delivering a $15,000 check to "The Grassroot Project," a group of NCAA Division I athletes from local colleges who teach Washington-area middle schoolers about HIV/AIDS prevention.
The ceremony will be held from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Anne Arundel Hall Lounge at the University of Maryland, College Park (enter from Campus Drive). Media are welcome to attend.
Grassroot now deploys men's and women's athletes to from Georgetown, George Washington and Howard universities to D.C. middle schools. The $15,000 grant will allow it to expand to Maryland, with UMD students teaching Middle Schoolers in Prince George's County.
UMD sophomore business major Lindsay Djuhadi, of Downington, Penna., said the class chose Grassroot after researching and interviewing several HIV/AIDS-focused organizations. Djuhadi said the class wanted to focus on a group that would educate kids about prevention because that would have a lasting and broader impact on the community.
"We really liked that it had multiple layers of impact - the fact that the donation would help Maryland athletes get involved in middle schools in College Park - and that college students would have to learn about these issues in order to teach the middle school students," Djuhadi said.
Tyler Spencer, a former college rower who helped found Grassroot at Georgetown in 2009, said the donation will give the group a big boost, covering most of the $18,000 cost to expand into the D.C. suburbs. "We're excited to be coming to Maryland," said Spencer. The group would like to grow to serve the Washington, D.C.-metro area and beyond, he said.
Now a Rhodes Scholar working on his doctorate in public health, Spencer has been tracking the impact Grassroot has had on the middle schoolers with whom the athletes work. Since 2009, Grassroot has trained more than 300 varsity athletes from 30 sports teams - ranging from sailing to basketball - as sexual health educators. The athletes are deployed into middle schools, five athletes to a class of about 30 students, one day a week for eight weeks.
The athletes give the students a quiz about HIV/AIDS and sexual health at the beginning and end of each eight-week session, and the results show the students are learning. The middle schoolers are more open to talking with college athletes than they are to talking to parents and teachers or to their own peers, Spencer said.
Djuhadi said she and her classmates were moved by the impact Grassroot had on the kids during a site visit at an area middle school.
As with any good philanthropy, the class wanted to make sure it would get the most benefit for its gift. The class felt college athletes would be especially effective at teaching middle school students.
"When I was little, if any college athletes had come to my class to teach me anything, I know I would have loved it and listened to what they were saying," Djuhadi said.
That doesn't mean choosing one grantee was an easy decision, she added. The class spent many hours discussing and debating their mission, and then critically evaluating different organizations before making their ultimate decision.
Grimm, who teaches Djuhadi's class and directs the Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at UMD's School of Public Policy, said that hands-on experience makes the class a powerful learning experience.
The first part of the class is "philanthropy boot camp" and covers how to set up a grant program. The class then reviews applications, interviews applicants, does site visits, and finally makes the tough group decision about which applicant most deserves funding and why.
"An important part of the lesson is choosing a philanthropic goal that students feel passionate about and that will make the biggest impact," Grimm said. "It's not so much a class as an experience. By the end of the semester, I want students to be using their heads as much as their hearts, to think objectively about which applicants are a good investment."
Said Djuhadi, "This has been an experience I won't ever forget. When I first saw there would be 40 or 50 of us in the class, I thought there's no way we're ever going to decide. In the end, we came together."
In addition to philanthropy, being democratic, giving everyone a voice, and learning how to make a decision were among the most important lessons she learned. "This has been my favorite class at Maryland," she said.
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