We connect students in high-need schools with top performing athletes in order to motivate them to recognize their potential, set goals and dream big.
About Your Organization
Country where this project is creating social impact
Is your organization a
Non‐profit / NGO / Citizen sector organization
Your role in Education
The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with
How long has your organization been operating?
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Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
How long has your solution been in operation?
Operating for 1‐5 years
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
The two main objectives of the program are to prepare students for a successful future and to increase their digital literacy.
Many students in high need schools struggle because they do not have the benefit of strong role models who encourage them to envision for themselves a bright and successful future. In fact, a 2010 Gallup survey, Youth Readiness for the Future, found that 47% of students surveyed feel stuck or discouraged, "lacking the ideas and energy they need to navigate problems and reach goals."
In addition, while even students at high-need schools have a certain level of digital literacy, standard curricula often don't incorporate technology. Therefore, students aren't using various media to enhance their digital and visual literacy.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
Classroom Champions pairs each classroom in the program with an Olympic or Paralympic athlete. A kind of 21st century pen-pal, each athlete acts as a mentor, and adopts 1-4 classrooms per year. Focusing on their own personal journey, athletes bring to life for students the hard work of training, goal setting, competition and perseverance that is necessary to become an Olympian. Exchanging video blogs and holding video chats, students are engaged with their mentor several times per month.
Our program supports teachers by helping them incorporate these activities into their curriculum, focusing on letter writing, reading, geography, math, goal setting and leadership, while providing the technology to do so.
Teachers benefit from a social network with each other. The network shares lesson plans, ideas, and student work. Although each classroom has one specific athlete assigned to them, this social network allows every classroom to benefit from all program material.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Classrooms are paired with an Olympian or Paralympian mentor for the entire school year. The athletes provide their perspective on a different theme each month. Themes include goal setting, inspiration, community, fair play, respect, and nutrition. Teachers incorporate the videos into their curricula, developing a sustained relationship with their athlete. Students write letters and produce their own videos to share with their Olympian mentors. Students also have the benefit of learning about the struggles and accomplishments of Paralympians, thus changing their perspective about ability and disability. The program facilitates a live web chat between classrooms and their mentors and where possible, arrange for in-person meetings.
The impact is felt not only by the students but also by the teachers. It has given many of our educators renewed enthusiasm and creativity for preparing their lessons and utilizing technology in their classrooms. Teachers' blogs available on our web site and examples of student work posted to our Facebook wall are the best example of how Classroom Champions makes a difference. One student, who had met her mentor, Wheelchair Basketball Paralympic athlete Mary Allison Milford, wrote: "I wish I was like you. You like yourself. You believe in yourself. I don't do that at all. You are my hero now."
All athlete videos, select classroom videos and lesson plans are made available on Classroom Champions web site and YouTube channel for use by any educator in the world.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
We are not currently aware of any other program which operates as we do. There are other initiatives around students' self-efficacy and promoting digital literacy. However, no one else seeks to develop a sustained personal mentoring relationship between active elite athletes and students.
Classroom Champions draws upon the network and accomplishments of co-founder and three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist Steve Mesler. In addition, the program's education foundation is directed by co-founder and former New York City public school teacher, education policy expert, Leigh Mesler Parise, PhD.
Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Olympians utilizing 21st century technology to create relationships & teach students to team, lead and live like an Olympian.
Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]
Never before have the world's most inspiring athletes come together to impact students, teachers and communities in such a sustained way
This Entry is about (Issues)
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
In the first full year of our program we have provided role models to and discussed important values with more than 700 students from 28 participating classrooms around the country as well as over 14,000 views-to-date by the public of athlete mentor and student videos.
Teachers have seen from students an increased interest in all classroom activities and personal development after they hear their athlete mentors discuss goal setting, respect, fair play, and other important values. Many examples of impact are evidenced by the work completed by the students, their heart felt letters, poems, essays and videos produced around the core themes of the program. Visit our YouTube channel or Facebook page for examples.
Teachers have noted they are more engaged than at any other point in their career as they have learned more about their students through the program.
Parents are also more engaged and one teacher specifically noted higher parent-teacher conference attendance.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
We hope to grow the program to 15-20 athlete mentors per school year aligned to 60-100 classrooms, potentially directly impacting over 3,000 students. We look to have 15 guest athletes sending messages speaking to various themes throughout each school year. Also, we plan to offer cooperative programs with Russia, Holland, Kenya and Canada.
With our public web site and social channels, we hope to reach countless classrooms in the United States and around the world. All of our athlete videos and select classroom videos, lessons and student work will continue to be made publicly available.
We plan to organize our website by theme, allowing any teacher the ability to stream or download athlete messages directly to their classrooms along with corresponding lesson plans.
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
The basic components of our program seem to be in good supply: high-need schools/students and elite athletes who want to make a difference and volunteer their time. What we lack is dedicated administration of the process: outreach to athletes, coordination of athlete-classroom communication, curation of content produced by athletes and classrooms, a world-class public web site as well as a private social network for program participants. Without these basics, the program would be too cumbersome for teachers to implement. Teacher delivery in the classroom is key, and so we must provide exceptional support and resources for them. Our current network of volunteers maintain the program as its current level. We are seeking funding for paid/dedicated resources.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Measuring 2011-12 program impact data while launching the next round of classrooms for the 2012-13 program year.
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Complete current classroom application process and choose classrooms for 2012-13 program
Completion and analysis of second round of student survey to measure impact on self-efficacy and digital literacy
Provide technology for 2012-13 to classrooms and athletes, improve internal and public facing channels with curated content.
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Expand the program domestically and internationally; become trusted teacher resource for videos and lesson plans
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Secure sponsorship for funding and hardware/software to build the foundational infrastructure to grow the program.
Place plan to double number of participating classrooms domestically and move international
Complete extensive website re-development
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]
When I was heading into my third and final Olympic season, I wanted to make a bigger impact than I had been. Every athlete visits schools, talks to kids, and leaves. They leave thinking, "if just one kid listened, it was worth my time." To me that wasn't good enough.
My sister, Leigh (at the time completing her PhD in Education Policy), and I decided to do something more. Utilizing my tech-geek side, I adopted 9 classrooms from around the U.S. and Canada and in a 21st-century pen pal way, exchanging video messages with students as I traveled the world preparing for the Olympics. Once at the Olympics, I had Skype video chats with each of the classrooms while in the Athletes Olympic Village.
It was with this foundation, that we saw the impact that repeated communication with an elite athlete role model had on kids. For once, it wasn't just "if one kid listened," it was, "now they've all listened!" And thus a new, more efficient way to mentor was born!
Tell us about your partnerships
The program has a content sharing partnership with NBC-Universal. Classroom Champions is the only non-profit that NBC-Universal Sports has granted this to. We are currently exploring partnering with teacher organizations to share our content with larger teacher networks as well.
We have completed cooperative programs with CIFP (Fair Play International) and Little Sports Organisation-Kenya as pilot programs, and are in talks with the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee's Education Department.
What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]
• Executive Director- Steve Mesler, Olympic Gold Medalist with extensive Olympic athlete, sponsor and media network. • Director of Education- Leigh Parise, PhD, with public school experience and MDRC Education Policy Expert with extensive education ties.
• Active volunteer Board members from companies such as Deloitte, U.S. Olympic Committee, HP, Wasserman Media Group, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Sports Illustrated, Lululemon
Short and medium term paid staff will include business/program manager, coordinator and outsourced/contracted help for website and technical support.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
We are eager to share our content with as many educators and education websites as possible so that our Olympians and Paralympians impact as many classrooms as possible. We have multiple communications specialists who would be happy to advise other organizations.
We will need solid non-profit consulting and accounting services as we grow into the shoes we are building for ourselves.