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First-Year Students Get Kids Moving

On a hot August day, a convoy of school buses dropped off more than 200 kids between the ages of 3 and 7 at the Robert A. DuFour Athletic Center at Catholic University of America. When they stepped off the buses the children were greeted with high-fives a chorus of cheers from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) students.

As part of Community Service Day, a longstanding tradition, first-year medical (MD), physician assistant (PA), and physical therapy (PT) students volunteered for the Young Athletes Fall Festival organized in collaboration with Special Olympics.

The Special Olympics Young Athletes program is a unique sport and play project for young children with intellectual disabilities. The focus is on fun activities that are important to mental and physical growth. Children participate in games that develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

“I think it’s important to understand that we need to reach people on a personal level,” said Nidhi Kedda, MD Class of 2022. “Who better to reach first than children, who are so open and happy and accepting of other people.”

Student volunteers helped the kids navigate obstacle courses stationed around the athletic center and tested their fine motor skills with other challenges, such as balancing a ball on a small racket.

With an event like this, said Jesse Kirtchuk, a first-year PT student, “there are so many activities and sports and an emphasis on movement, exercise, and being active. This connects to what we do as physical therapists and how we can make a difference in our community.”

The event also offered students the opportunity to mingle with their colleagues in different programs and step outside of the classroom to interact with their community.

 “When you’re so involved with everything in the classroom, you can get kind of lost in the academics and forget why you went into the profession in the first place,” First-year PA student Rebecca Lee said. “I think it’s a good reminder to come out and be part of the community and be human.”