D.C. activist among Rhodes scholarship winners

By Martin Weil
Monday, November 23, 2009

A University of Virginia graduate who runs a program that trains athletes to be HIV/AIDS educators for youths in the District has been named a Rhodes scholar for 2010.

According to an announcement Sunday, Tyler S. Spencer, who grew up in Virginia and lives in the District, is one of three people from the District and Virginia to win one of the awards, among the most prestigious in the academic world.

The other two are Jordan D. Anderson of Roanoke, a senior at Auburn University in Alabama, and Kira C. Allmann of Williamsburg, a senior at the College of William and Mary.

Spencer, who grew up in Staunton and graduated from U-Va. last year, said he hopes to return to the District after Oxford and improve and expand the Grassroot Project, also known as Athletes United, which he founded and heads.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done" on HIV/AIDS, said Spencer, 23. College athletes, he said, closer in age to the city's youths, have a special ability to reach them and can exert "tremendous power" in stopping the spread of the disease.

He said his organization works with the D.C. public schools and the Boys and Girls Clubs. He has also spent summers managing a grassroots AIDS prevention program in South Africa.

As with the 31 other American winners of the award, created in 1902, Spencer has a background of uncommon achievement. Among other things, he was a Morris Udall scholar and coach of the National Deaf Tennis Team.

Anderson, 21, a biomedical sciences major, has participated in a research project at Auburn on the photochemistry of the eye.

He is captain of the swim team and an all-American whose events include the butterfly and the backstroke. His team has twice won the national championship. He has also been active with the Young Life Christian outreach program.

At Oxford, he said, he expects to study global health sciences, and he views the scholarship as "an opportunity to broaden my horizons on how I can best serve other people."

Allmann, 22, has studied Arabic at a university in Morocco and architecture and art history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

She has been a substitute teacher in Williamsburg schools, taking assignments in "pretty much any" academic subject but enjoying most those in government, history and modern languages. Nonacademic interests include tennis, yoga and volleyball.

Allmann said she plans to work for an Oxford degree in modern Middle Eastern studies and might someday pursue a doctorate.

But after Oxford, she said, she "would like to join the Foreign Service" or serve the U.S. government in some other capacity.

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