College Champions FAQ

What is Classroom Champions?

College Champions connects K-8 classes in Philadelphia, P.A. and Camden, N.J. publicly funded schools with student-athlete mentors in order to motivate students to recognize their potential, set goals, and dream big, while educating them in the practical use of communications technology. Not only will your student-athlete teach your students the lessons learned from sport, but they will give your students a connection to the University of Pennsylvania – and the chance to envision themselves as college students. College Champions is powered by Classroom Champions, an international nonprofit mentoring organization/charity.


How does it work?

Our College Champions student athlete mentors are University of Pennsylvania students who are competing in a variety of sports while completing their college degrees. Student athletes join teachers in their efforts to help students thrive. Participating in College Champions can help students identify and accomplish their dreams using skills such as goal setting, perseverance, teamwork, and community involvement, among others. Participation also focuses them on career and college readiness and on building an intentional future for themselves.

Student-athletes send their assigned group of 3-5 classes a monthly video lesson, which teachers integrate with locally adopted curriculum. Teachers and students then communicate to their athlete what they've learned through photographs, video messages, and a monthly summary posted by the teacher on our internal online network.

Student-athletes will also make several in-person school visits, and we can help you arrange a field trip to visit the Penn campus.  


How would participating in College Champions help me as a teacher?

Classroom Champions, the nonprofit that powers College Champions conducts professional development with teachers in social and emotional learning and growth mindset. In addition, our Philadelphia-based based education coordinator is ready to come help you in the classroom with projects or with technology. In addition, we’ll welcome you into a vibrant Professional Learning Network of like-minded local teachers, all striving to strengthen your community.

Each spring we survey teachers participating in Classroom Champions programming, including College Champions teachers. After participating in the program, they report a significant increase in job engagement, in their ability to be a leader among their peers, and in their skills with educational technology.


What are the student impacts of participating in College Champions?

Teachers report that their students demonstrate marked increases in interpersonal skills, decision-making, social emotional competencies, and measures of growth mindset. They are more optimistic, more resilient, and also come to school more often.

We know this because our research team, led by Dr. Rhiannon MacDonnell Mesler, conducts teacher and student surveys in the fall and spring. See the impacts of Classroom Champions programming here.


Will College Champions help me build relationships with my students' families?

Yes! We provide tools to extend the conversation about the monthly topics into students’ home lives. These include a monthly newsletter in English and in Spanish for teachers to share with students’ families. We also invite parents to interact with us on social media.

In 2015-16 we began a program for the families of Classroom Champions and College Champions students with videos on the monthly topics filmed by Olympians and Paralympians who are themselves parents. Our Olympian and Paralympian parent videos are warm and conversational and help parents think about how they want to communicate their personal family values to their children about Classroom Champions topics. Teachers tell us that participating in Classroom Champions programming gives them a unique chance to connect with families around their shared desire for the students to thrive.

In addition, each year classes engage in a community service project that strengthens the school-home-community connection.


Will College Champions expand to other universities?

We are planning for expansion! If you are a university or a donor who would like to partner in this initiative, please contact us


Applying for College Champions

Who can participate in College Champions?

While all teachers are invited to apply to Classroom Champions, our focus for College Champions is on schools in the Philadelphia, P.A. and Camden, N.J. areas. We work with K-8 classroom teachers in publicly funded schools where at least 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. 


How can I apply for College Champions?

Teachers can begin the application process online by visiting


What is involved in the application process?

The application process takes about twenty minutes to complete. You will be asked for your contact information, a bit about your teaching assignment, and the location and demographics of your school. Folks who complete that part of the application may be asked to schedule a phone interview to talk about why you and your students would be good candidates to participate in College Champions, how you plan to make the program part of your teaching, and what you hope to learn as a member of the teacher community.

In addition, you and your principal will be asked to sign letters stating that you understand the expectations of the program. You need to sign your letter (and upload a pdf) or digitally sign the application for it to be considered complete. Your principal must sign/give you a letter to upload before you are accepted to the program.

When you fill out the form, create a save and return account so you don’t have to upload letters right that minute.


What is the timeline for the application process?

Applications will open on February 28, 2017. Teachers who will be invited to participate in College Champions during the 2017-2018 school year will be notified before early June.


Can my whole school participate in College Champions?

No. We have found that the dedication of individual teachers is what makes student participation in College Champions especially meaningful, so we only accept individual classes. However, we have accepted multiple teachers in one school, and teaching teams. Each teacher must fill out their own application.


Participating in College Champions

Can I participate in College Champions if my school does not have advanced technology?

Yes. College Champions aims to provide participating classrooms with the technology for communicating with their student-athlete mentor. However, schools must have existing reliable internet access. The ability to use Google Apps in the classroom makes things easier but is not a requirement.


How much does it cost to participate in College Champions?

There is no cost to participating teachers, students, or schools. All technology and programming is provided by College Champions free of charge, for a value of about several thousand dollars per Classroom. We are funded by a combination of corporate support, foundation grants, and individual donors. 


How much time will participation in College Champions require?

College Champions teachers do invest some time and effort beyond their regular teaching load preparing for College Champions activities, including viewing video messages, reading and posting on the internal network, taking photographs, and drafting goals, etc. Teachers report spending an additional hour per month doing the monthly summary for their student athlete mentor. College Champions topics slide easily into your district’s curriculum. One two-hour live online orientation (usually over the summer) is required, as is reading the teacher handbook.


How will I know how to incorporate my student-athlete and College Champions into my teaching?

College Champions provides participating teachers with support from our education team, led by a teacher with 20 years' classroom experience. Teachers create their own lessons, incorporating their existing curriculum, designed with their own students in mind. We conduct monthly online planning meetings and provide a planning resources manual, but do not issue step-by-step lessons. Often teacher collaborate to exchange lesson plans and ideas.


Will I need to collect permission slips from my students' parents?

No. Every child in your room participates in College Champions just like they participate in any program presented during the school day. We ask that teachers collect signed image release forms from families so that student work, photos, and videos may be used on the College Champions website and materials, in social media outlets, and may be posted on sponsors’/partners’ websites. We do not use children’s full names in any of our media/publications unless permission is separately secured from the student's family.

Parents are also asked to alert the research team if they do not want their child to take part in the confidential twice-yearly surveys.


Our Student-Athlete Mentors

How are student-athlete mentors selected to participate in the program?

Our Student Athletes are leaders on campus and are volunteering to mentor students near their university. They go through an extensive interview process conducted by our athlete relations team. Once accepted to College Champions, student-athletes are trained and supported in creating the best possible monthly lessons for their classes. They also undergo a thorough criminal background check.


Can I choose the student-athlete with whom my class is paired?

No, but we work to thoughtfully pair each participating class with a very special athlete training for collegiate competition.


Are there requirements regarding how often my class must communicate with our student-athlete mentor?

Teachers submit monthly summaries of their discussions and projects on our private internal network. Their student-athlete checks in there to see what their classes are learning from their video lessons.


Contact Us

For more information about the program, contact

Become part of the conversation by following us on Twitter @ClassroomChamps or liking us on Facebook at Classroom Champions.