Service-Learning and C.H.A.M.P. Programs Celebrate 20 Years

by Jared Thornton '12

Each year, elementary school children walk single-file through campus with big, bright, excited smiles, taking in the sights of APU. These exuberant fourth graders are all part of the C.H.A.M.P. (College Headed and Mighty Proud) program, which aims to educate local elementary school students about college. This year marks the programs 20th anniversary.

C.H.A.M.P. began in 1991 as a volunteer group of APU students. They partnered with Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) to help educate two fourth grade classes at Murray Elementary School about the importance of attending college. As the program grew, five more elementary schools joined its ranks: Lee, Mountain View, Dalton, Powell, and Magnolia. In 1998, the C.H.A.M.P. program became a service-learning project for APU students enrolled in Diversity in the Classroom.

Since its inception, C.H.A.M.P. has educated more than 10,000 fourth grade students about the importance of a college education, including many current APU students. Kimberly Rios is a junior communication studies major at APU, and C.H.AM.P. program alumna. “I remember how proud C.H.A.M.P. made me feel when I was a kid,” Rios said. “I believe it was at that point in my life I realized I would go to college, and from then on, there was never a doubt in my mind. C.H.A.M.P. made me believe college was not only a possibility, but also an obtainable reality.”

Some students, like freshman social work major Adrianne Camacho, had never heard of APU before the program. “The C.H.A.M.P. program introduced me to APU, and ever since then, it was my dream to come to this university,” said Camacho. Upon graduating from Azusa High School, Camacho was selected as an Azusa Scholar, enabling her to live on campus while attending APU, which was another one of her goals.

For junior Spanish major Seleni Alcantar, her involvement with C.H.A.M.P. marked the first time she considered college. “Before this program, no one really talked to me about college,” she said. “My family would have just been happy if I graduated high school. After attending C.H.A.M.P., I realized how amazing the Azusa Pacific campus was, and that made me want to go to college.”

“C.H.A.M.P. creates new dreams and inspires young people to pursue a future that includes higher education. We are honored to share in the lives of our Azusa youth through the C.H.A.M.P. program,” said Judy Hutchinson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research (CASLR).

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Service-Learning and C.H.A.M.P. programs, the CASLR hosts a celebration on Saturday, October 29, from 2–4 p.m. More than 1,400 former APU C.H.A.M.P. buddies are invited to attend. With a historic slide show, an APU string ensemble performance, and light refreshments, the event offers an opportunity to reconnect with friends and celebrate a significant milestone.

Special guests include APU President Jon Wallace, DBA; Center for Academic Service-Learning and Research (CASLR) founder Cliff Briggs; APU Vice President Emeritus Cliff Hamlow; 2011 California Teacher of the Year and former Azusa fourth grade teacher Bev Gonzalez; Azusa Mayor Joe Rocha; the first C.H.A.M.P. fourth grade teachers from Murray Elementary; and leadership from the Azusa Rotary Club, a founding partner of C.H.A.M.P.