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State High students bring Penn State athletes, community together for a cause

by on February 16, 2018 7:16 AM

STATE COLLEGE — The Penn State basketball game against Michigan on Wednesday, Feb. 21, will feature a lot more than a Big 10 rivalry. The game will bring together a community of SCAHS students, Penn State athletes, a local youth basketball league and Penn State basketball fans to raise funds and awareness for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

The events are being planned by student participants in Youth as Researchers, a new program sponsored by UNESCO in partnership with a local organization, Athletes for Global Goals. Its purpose is to give young people an opportunity to effect change in their community and beyond while teaching them valuable research skills.

“We are trying to raise awareness and empower youth. That’s the underlying theme of what we are trying to do — to recognize that youth have an incredible ability to make an impact in their community and within an organization, to really make a difference, and in this organization we’re really trying to make their voices be heard,” said Kristine Ona, project director of Athletes for Global Goals. “That’s important because I think we underestimate the ability for youths to do that, and we’re providing that space for them, helping them to get involved in something impactful where they can research an idea and take action upon it.”

Athletes for Global Goals started in 2013 when Alex Small, then a seventh-grader in the State College Area School District, did a school project on Scott Case, co-founder of Malaria No More. During his research, Small learned about the devastating effects of malaria and decided he wanted to do something to help. With a group of four more seventh-graders, Small started a nonprofit group called Nets4Nets, which raised money to purchase protective mosquito nets for those in affected African communities by collecting pledged donations for each goal scored by their soccer team.

They expanded their efforts to include a halftime event, 11 v. 100, at a Penn State soccer game. The event pitted 100 local youth soccer players against 11 members of the Penn State men’s or women’s soccer team in a scrimmage. While eventually Nets4Nets morphed into Athletes for Global Goals, the 11 v. 100 event has been held annually in the fall.

Laura Guay, a first-year student in Schreyer Honors College at Penn State and 2017 graduate of SCAHS, serves as Youth as Researchers mentor and coordinator for the State High program. She explained, “With Athletes for Global Goals, athletes come together on the field and on the court, and while they have this interaction, there’s also this opportunity for the community to participate.

“After this past year’s soccer event, since we were just starting the Youth as Researchers program, we thought this would be a perfect opportunity to begin expanding it to another sport.”

The student researchers chose RAINN as their focus and collaborated with the Penn State basketball program and OLV Hoops, a basketball league for children in grades kindergarten through sixth, to plan a halftime event. According to Guay, the event will involve Penn State athletes, the OLV hoops teams and spectators in an interactive “Simon Says” activity.

In order to raise funds for their cause, the students will be selling student tickets to the game for $4 each. Everyone who purchases a ticket will receive a raffle entry for the chance to win pregame sideline passes for a 2018 Penn State football game. Additional raffle tickets can be purchased for $1. The students will be selling tickets at a table outside of the Corner Room on College Avenue from noon to 4 p.m. through Friday, Feb. 16. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21.

While the basketball event in support of RAINN will be one of their more visible activities, Youth as Researchers participants examine other social issues throughout the year. Currently, students are researching factors that affect participation in the classroom, and how socioeconomic status affects education levels. They will present the results of their research to UNESCO representatives in March.

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