Senior men’s tennis player Vineet Naran found himself in awe as he walked through the White House.
Naran was there as one of 15 college students selected nationwide to attend and participate in the “It’s On Us” summit at the White House on Jan. 5.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Naran said. “Just to be able to walk around, and then to be able to speak, it’s kind of mind blowing at first.”
The “It’s On Us” initiative was started by Vice President Joe Biden and the Obama administration in 2014. It is an organized effort to take a stand against sexual assault, particularly on college campuses. This year was the first time students were invited to the White House.
Naran, a philosophy major on the pre-med track, was selected based on his prior work with the initiative, including appearances in numerous public service announcement videos.
He also participated in pledge drives at Temple football, basketball and soccer games where he tried to get people to “take the pledge” by committing themselves to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault, as well as a promise not to be a bystander.
Students who were chosen spoke on different panels about sexual assault.
“During the summit, I spoke on two panels,” Naran said. “The first panel discussed the work Pennsylvania has been doing with the initiative. My responses focused largely on the student perspective, and what students have been doing with ‘It’s On Us.’”
The second panel discussed the prevalence of sexual assault with student athletes in both college and professional sports, and how sports can be used as a platform to stop sexual assault.
“I spoke about my experiences as a student-athlete and how I believe sport can be used to raise awareness of the issue,” Naran said.
When the day was over, the summit participants gathered in a room in anticipation of a special speaker. Biden surprised Naran and the other students with an appearance.
“I think the coolest part of the experience was to hear Vice President Biden speak,” Naran said. “He mainly talked about how he started his work on this issue over 30 to 40 years ago, and how no women’s group at the time wanted to join his initiative. He had a lot of passion [when he spoke].”
Along with the students, panel speakers included NCAA coaches and NCAA representatives. One of MLB’s brand managers spoke about the league’s new sexual assault prevention program it puts rookie players through.
“One thing I learned was that we can use the ‘It’s On Us’ Initiative and the knowledge it has brought to us and use that to educate children grades K through 12,” Naran said. “The education can start early and the goal is to start this education as soon as possible.”
Dan Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.