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The power of soccer

Wes Mitchell ('10) helps fight AIDS with Grassroot Soccer
By Amelia Wood ('13)

Soccer fan and political science major Wes Mitchell ('10) is an intern in Lilongwe, Malawi, with the nonprofit organization Grassroot Soccer.

Imagine the power of Michael Jordan if basketball was the only sport anyone watched. Soccer is an integral part of most local cultures across the world. Simply arriving at a field with a soccer ball will win you instant friendships and immediate access into a local community. What better introduction to fight one of the world's most prevalent diseases.

Soccer fan and political science major Wes Mitchell ('10) is an intern in Lilongwe, Malawi, with the nonprofit organization Grassroot Soccer. He is "using the transformative power of soccer in the fight against HIV and AIDS."

JMU "my first choice"

Mitchell's journey to get to Malawi started during his senior year of high school while he was applying for college. "Throughout high school I researched just about every academic program at JMU because I knew that it was my first choice for college. I'll never forget the day I got home from school to find that JMU admissions packet in my mailbox. I didn't even visit the other schools I applied to," he says.

Mitchell was a member of the JMU men's club soccer team for four years. He was in charge of fundraisers sophomore and junior year, and served as social chair his junior year. As an upperclassman, he coached varsity boys' soccer at Spotswood High School. "I consider myself a more outgoing and personable individual as a result of the culture at JMU," Mitchell says. "JMU prepares students for the real world after college."

From Africana studies to internships

Melinda Adams, political science associate professor, peaked Mitchell's interest in a minor in Africana studies. "I enjoyed learning about her experiences and expertise in African politics," he says. Mitchell interned at the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, giving him his first real taste of Africa. "I would eventually like to get more involved with African politics and economics, but I love working for Grassroot Soccer and influencing young people in Malawi," says Mitchell, who had a second minor communication studies.

Mitchell accepted the internship with Grassroot Soccer right after graduation. "Knowing that I wouldn't see my family and friends for the next year, I tried to see everyone before I left for Africa," he says.

Mitchell helps out with numerous aspects of the nonprofit including, planning and implementing educational programs, developing relationships with other community organizations, organizing events, monitoring programs, recruiting volunteers and helping develop business.

Mitchell hopes to attend a graduate program to further his education in African politics and economics. "I can't wait to get back and see all the new and exciting things going on at JMU," he says. "I've really missed JMU football and Homecoming."

Read Mitchell's blog at http://wesinmalawi.wordpress.com, or learn more at www.grassrootsoccer.org