by Rekha Aramuthu (SMBA ’15)
One of the objectives of the recent Doha GOALS Forum (see more here and here) is to provide a platform for youth initiatives surrounding sports and development. Every year the conference organizing body gets a huge number of project ideas and student proposals, but only a few can be implemented from a practical standpoint. This year, a large number of proposals were presented to the committee, but only the top two two initiatives would receive the opportunity to present their initiative to a panel of judges, who would decide whether the initiative should receive funding from the Doha GOALS Foundation.
Out of the entire pool of applications four initiatives were shortlisted, including representatives from George Washington University and Ohio University. One student from each university was called upon to present the initiative in detail to a representative from the organizing committee. After much deliberation from the organizing committee, the proposals from both Ohio University and San Diego State University Sports MBA were selected as finalists to present their ideas in front of the judges and the audience of conference attendees. I had the privilege to represent the Sports MBA program from San Diego State in front of an elite panel including former Olympic gold medalists Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner.
After visiting the Dominican Republic with my classmates last year, we learned a great deal about the impact that baseball has on the boys of that country. It can get their attention regardless of the circumstances, and we strongly believe that volleyball can do the same for girls. Our pitch was to start an after school program for girls in the Dominican Republic, using volleyball as a method of intervention to engage girls of all ages, keep them in school for longer, and to keep them off the streets. The idea was to introduce a mentorship model where young girls will have a female mentor who they can look up to as a role model in their own communities.
The pilot program would be initiated in a high school in Najayo, a small town we visit each year. The idea is to eventually scale the project to have programs in communities near all Major League Baseball team academies in the country. Two of the main concerns the Doha GOALS Foundation wanted to address from last year were sustainability and scalability, and both of these concerns were addressed in our project through existing partnerships and ease of implementation of this initiative. The funding amount requested would be used to recruit these young, female mentors in various communities, support for their salary and training, and the purchase of equipment and any other infrastructure costs associated with the after school program.
The pitch went off really well– I had the opportunity to meet some of the judges backstage and they seemed thoroughly impressed by our project!