- Olympians aren’t just competing for their country in South Korea over the next couple of weeks. Many top U.S. and Canadian athletes also spend their time serving as virtual mentors for students as part of the Classroom Champions program, The 74 reports.
- Founded by Steve Mesler, a three-time U.S. Olympian and gold medalist in bobsledding, and his sister Leigh Parise, an education researcher and former teacher, the program now includes 125 Olympians and other high-level athletes who reach more than 25,000 students in seven countries.
- Mesler founded the program because he wanted to have a deeper impact on students than just giving “one-off” speeches about staying healthy.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics now in progress, students are bound to see the highs and lows that come with competitive sports. But successful athletes also have a lot to share with students about the commitment and hard work it takes to reach goals in life. In a video chat with a mentee class, for example, gold medal-winning ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis compared preparing for a competition to preparing for a test. “At the end of the day you know that you at least put yourself in a position to succeed,” White said.
The program also provides a model for what school leaders can look for when deciding to bring mentoring programs into their schools. Those who sign up with Classroom Champions commit to making monthly videos on various topics, and teachers incorporate those into classroom lessons. Athletes make sure they align their videos with the social-emotional learning goals teachers have for their students. Teachers and students also interact with their athlete mentors through social media.
MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, also provides research and resources on elements of effective mentoring programs. While mentoring can contribute to student achievement, reduce absenteeism and improve graduation rates, programs need to follow quality standards, such as providing mentors with training.