Cheney, Wash. – Being a student-athlete provides a unique platform for giving back to the surrounding community and those in it.
Members of Eastern Washington University’s Men’s Basketball and Volleyball teams have embraced this opportunity in the form of C.H.A.M.P.S., a program that sees Eastern student-athletes spend at least one day a month with students at Whitman Elementary School in Spokane, Wash.
C.H.A.M.P.S., or “College Headed and Making Progress,” is the brainchild of EWU Men’s Basketball head coach Jim Hayford and Whitman teacher Jodi Schock. The program, which began in the fall of 2014, sees a player from each team mentor an elementary student from now through high school.
“So much of community service is you’ll come one time, and the team will show up and do something,” Hayford told KHQ/SWX. “There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s great. But I think where you really get significant change in life is when you develop great relationships and that’s the core of the C.H.A.M.P.S. program, is relationships between our players and these elementary students.”
What started out as a collaboration between Eastern’s men’s basketball team and Whitman has evolved to include EWU’s volleyball program in the recent months.
Men’s Basketball student-athletes have each been paired with a fifth-grade student while Volleyball student-athletes have been paired with students from third through sixth grade.
“The C.H.A.M.P.S. program offers our players a unique opportunity to mentor and support some female students at Whitman Elementary,” said EWU Volleyball head coach Wade Benson. “We really enjoy being able to give back to the community as well as to learn from some very charming young ladies.”
EWU student-athletes spend part of their time at Whitman with the entire student body, but a majority of their time is spent one-on-one with their student.
“C.H.A.M.P.S. is such an incredible program,” said EWU Volleyball’s Sophie Miller. “To be able to mentor young girls and hopefully make a positive impact on their life is a huge privilege. We have a chance to make a big difference in our community for the future generations and it all starts here. I’ve loved getting to know the girl that I was paired up with and can’t wait to see what type of young lady she becomes.”
The program follows each Whitman student for eight years through middle school and high school. Once an EWU student-athlete graduates, an incoming player will begin mentoring their student.
“The real winners would be our players,” Hayford said. “They’re really enjoying how they can make a difference and use the platform of being a college basketball player to do something that’s so much more important than sport.”