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ESL Charitable Foundation Supports the Champion Academy Mentoring Program

August 2015

Unbreakable belief. That’s the mantra you’ll often hear spoken to students as you walk through the Champion Academy “locker rooms” (classrooms). The 12-month mentoring and empowerment program was started by NFL Super Bowl Champion and East High School alumnus Roland Williams. This year, with the help of a $25,000 grant from the ESL Charitable Foundation, the program will assist more than 500 at-risk students in realizing their full potential. Students will walk away with the unbreakable belief that will develop the necessary leadership skills required for their self-development, as well as the well-being of the Greater Rochester community.

This year’s program began with a two-week summer academy at Charlotte High School, where students were provided an introductory dose of inspiration and motivation to help achieve long-term success. The year-long program educates young boys and girls, ages 10-17, in a broad range of topics including conflict resolution, leadership, civic responsibility, social etiquette, time management, nutrition, and financial literacy.

Several ESL employees were on-site in late July to help lead “Financial Literacy Day.” ESL employees and Academy staff greeted students with a warm champion welcome as they arrived at camp. In fact, this champion welcome is the norm for each day of the summer academy – all designed to help the students feel the warmth and welcome that they may not receive in their home lives.

After lunch, students moved inside to hear presentations on employment, financial literacy, and small business growth from ESL Federal Credit Union Consumer Prosperity Manager Ajamu Kitwana, Business Growth Manager Malik Evans, and Talent Management Recruiter Rejoyce Owusu. Their stories on financial empowerment, starting one’s own business, and entering the workforce resonated with students and helped inspire them to build their future success here locally.

Champion Academy Founder, NFL Super Bowl Champion, and East High School alumnus Roland Williams with Champion Academy Students Dakota Podski, Tyrique Hanson, William Sawyer, and Serenity Harris (left to right)

When asked, one student said her biggest take away from the day was “Knowing (that) the biggest crime in America – (is) identity theft – I know I can help prevent that from happening to me by checking my credit report regularly, and establishing my credit through programs like ESL.”

There is not a cost to participate in the program. Instead, students are challenged to develop themselves, and pay with intangibles such as discipline, effort, consistency, and positivity. When practiced every day, these collective actions will help build the unbreakable belief for students to accomplish their dreams and achieve personal, academic, and community success.

“We’re passing on these principle beliefs to help them continue to succeed,” said Williams. “Everyone must get involved. It takes a community to change a community.

The $25,000 grant given to the Champion Academy is just one example of how the ESL Charitable Foundation is continuing to assist community improvement by working with local nonprofit organizations in the Greater Rochester area. To apply for funding, please submit your application.

To learn more about the Champion Academy, please visit their website at