International Projects

The Physical Activity and Life Skills (PALS) Group has been a driving force in putting KNPE on the world stage. We have been involved in many projects that use sport to address community issues and support positive social change.

Our success in these projects and active research agenda have resulted in high levels of recognition. Jenn Jacobs, Ph.D., earned an Early Career Scholar Award from the Journal of Sport for Development. Our executive director, Paul Wright, earned a Fulbright Research Award from the U.S. government and an Erasmus Mundus Senior Scholar Fellowship from the European Union. He also moderated a UNESCO panel on sport values in Paris.


Our team has an enduring partnership with youth sport organizations in Belize. The relationship began with a grant from the U.S. Department of State (2013-2016) to establish the Belizean Youth Sport Coalition (BYSC). The project involved a training exchange program and leadership development in the Belizean youth sport community. We also collaborated with dozens of Belizean organizations to promote youth development and social change. One of the original leaders of the project was elected to the Belize City Council on a platform of sport for development.

The partnership continued after the grant ended. In recent years, we have organized alternative spring breaks to bring NIU students to Belize. One trip involved hosting a summit on women's sport in Belize, an equity issue identified in the original project. 

Sri Lanka

Based on our success in Belize, we secured another grant from the U.S. Department of State. We received a subaward through Virginia Commonwealth University to operate a training exchange for youth sport programs in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. This project focused on supporting organizational change and addressing social issues such as reconciliation in a post-conflict society.

Learn more about the project:


Our team has active research collaborations in Belize, Canada, Finland, Greece, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and South Africa. See selected publications.


PALS has been transformative for my educational journey at NIU, especially in merging sports and emotional intelligence. As I integrate these principles, I foresee a positive impact not only on the students’ athletic skills but also on their emotional well-being. This approach also extends to their families, fostering a school community where children are not just present but actively thrive, marrying the worlds of sports, emotional intelligence and academic development.

Marissa Fetters, Graduate Teaching Assistant
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