WASHINGTON -- American University wrestler Elijah Murphy (Hyattsville, Md./Northwestern HS) is one of seven winners of the 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award, presented for just the second year ever. The Sports Humanitarian Awards, normally separate from the ESPY Awards, were combined as part of one virtual celebration on the night of June 21.
It was Murphy's work with The Grassroot Project in D.C. that led to his sports humanitarian honor, won alongside Howard University student-athlete Niah Woods. The pair have been helping to ensure that middle school students in the D.C. area have access to physical activity.
The highly competitive nomination process for the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award selects and rewards young people for their leadership and commitment to improve their communities through sport. The selected nominees must:
Demonstrate how they are using the power of sport as a catalyst for change within their local school or community.
Be passionate and committed to empowering the community in which he/she/they live.
Deliver social impact showcasing how his/her/their community has been positively impacted.
Embody confidence and enthusiasm as a leader and have strong moral character.
Personify exemplary leadership qualities on and off the field/court.
Murphy, who just earned his bachelor's degree from AU in psychology while also starting work towards his master's degree, will return in 2020-21 as a redshirt senior wrestler while completing that advanced degree in just one extra year. He's also applying for PhD programs to start in the Fall of 2021, with those deadlines coming in December.
Elijah MurphyAccording to a recent article by The Grassroot Project, Murphy has "has been a crucial member to The Grassroot Project's health education programming, and in the wake of movements advocating for racial equity, Elijah has been facilitating crucial conversations. On Instagram, he has been sharing his thoughts on systemic racism and reflecting on his experiences as a Black man and student-athlete alongside wrestler Jahi Jones from the University of Maryland."
The article goes on to discuss how Murphy is using his psychology degree to "enhance TGP's mental health promotion programs to think about the mental health effects of systemic racism. He was involved in the mental health pilot and is now taking a closer look at the lens in which TGP educates youth about mental health."
Along with the other award winners, Murphy will receive either a one-time $10,000 college scholarship or direct a grant to an eligible nonprofit aligned with their work. He'll participate in experiential learning and development programs over the next year to receive mentoring, leadership coaching, engage with senior leaders in the sport industry and attend sport-for-development workshops. Murphy will hopefully have a chance to meet and learn from tennis legend and social activist, Billie Jean King, and he'll join the award's alumni program -- a powerful network of young leaders using the power of sports to create social good in their communities.