Three-Sport Athlete Brings Competitive Spirit to Fundraising for Ugandan Youth

Notre Dame de Namur University graduate Arianna Cunha did a public health internship in Uganda

Arianna Cunha, center, with Youth Sport Uganda coworkers Bonita Komug (left) and Lorna Letasi (right)

Arianna Cunha doesn’t do things halfway. When she was being recruited as a student-athlete growing up in Hayward, California, she wanted a college that would allow her to play both basketball and soccer. She chose Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) in Belmont, California.

Arianna not only played her two chosen varsity sports, she joined the track team in her senior year and ran both the 100 and 200 meters. “I’m somebody who likes a taste of everything,” she says. Arianna has always been an avid athlete. “Growing up, my sister and I were involved in every sport you can think of.” Why does Arianna like sports so much? “I love to compete,” she says. “Plus I enjoy the dynamic of a team. It’s like having another family, another set of people you can rely on and trust.”

She majored in Kinesiology at Notre Dame de Namur, where she graduated in May 2019. Arianna is fascinated by the field of public health. Her interest led her to apply for an internship in Africa. Arianna was accepted to a program in the summer of 2018 with Youth Sport Uganda, an African nonprofit that promotes sports, health, and education in a fun setting. She used all the money she got for her 21st birthday to pay the travel expenses. Arianna worked in programs in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to engage young people in sports while teaching them about healthy lifestyles and disease prevention.

“We realized that to really address health issues in Uganda, we had to get the parents involved as well,” Arianna describes. “I helped create and implement a program to give classes to the parents of the young people in the education program.” Arianna worked alongside Ugandan interns to present information to mothers about preventing disease and providing healthy nutrition.

“It wasn’t easy leaving after three months in Uganda,” Arianna says. “The last week was very emotional. I learned so much from the young people and their moms about hospitality and family bonds.”

When Arianna returned to Notre Dame de Namur University in fall 2018, she decided to incorporate her experience in Uganda into the athletics program. “The student athletes at NDNU raise funds every year for a cause that we decide on,” she explains. “I talked about Youth Sport Uganda, and the students voted to make them the fundraising recipient for the whole athletic program for the 2018–19 academic year.” The funds will have significant impact in Uganda, where an annual student scholarship costs roughly $400. The fundraising drive concluded in spring 2019, netting $1800.

“Now that I’ve graduated, I’m leaving college with a direction for my career,” she says. “The internship in Uganda, as well as the past four years as a student leader and athlete, have helped me become a problem solver. With those skills, I’ve chosen to pursue a graduate degree in public health.” Arianna has been accepted into a master’s program in public health, and will be a summer intern at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.

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