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Fifteen sport leaders from thirteen countries are in the United States for a five-week mentorship program that focuses on using sports to promote disability rights and inclusion. The program is being implemented by UT’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society as part of the US Department of State’s Global Sports Mentoring Program.

These international leaders represent the first class of the GSMP: Sport for Community program. This new effort complements the GSMP: Empowering Women through Sports program, which pairs emerging leaders with leading American women in the sports world. This cross-cultural effort shows young girls and women how success in athletics can develop important life skills and improve academic achievement.

Adaptive Training
Emerging leaders participated in wheelchair tennis and adaptive fitness sessions led by trainers at North Michigan Park Recreation Center in Washington, DC.

“The center is excited to continue our relationship with the State Department on this landmark program,” said Sarah Hillyer, director of the center. “These emerging leaders are working to create meaningful, long-lasting change for people with disabilities in their countries, and we are very fortunate to work alongside them during their time in the United States.”

The 2016 GSMP: Sport for Community class includes Paralympic gold medalists, executives of national Paralympic committees, social entrepreneurs, educators and disability sport advocates. They hail from Belarus, Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Ukraine.

After a weeklong orientation in Washington, DC, led by Hillyer and Ashleigh Huffman, assistant director of the center, emerging leaders depart to mentoring organizations across the United States for three weeks.

During this time, they will develop an action plan for how to promote accessibility and inclusion through sports for people with disabilities. Partnering organizations include the US Olympic Committee, the Lakeshore Foundation, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers, the University of Alabama, and the University of Texas at Arlington.

“The program is structured to provide emerging leaders with opportunities to exchange information with one another and grow together as an international family committed to using sport for social change,” Hillyer said. “We are anticipating another exciting journey with them for the next five weeks and can’t wait to see what they plan to do when they return home.”

The program ends June 16 when emerging leaders return to Washington, DC, to present their action plans in front of representatives from the center, State Department, and mentoring organizations.

To follow GSMP: Sport for Community on social media, use the hashtags #S4C2016 and #Sport4All on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram.


Brian Canever (551-221-1382,

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,