College Headed and Mighty Proud!

by Christy Gazanian '07

On Wednesday, November 29, APU students gathered in the Felix Event Center with the Azusa community: families, teachers, and hundreds of fourth grade students from Magnolia Elementary, Murray Elementary, and Paramount Elementary arrived to celebrate the completion of the College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) Program for fall 2006.

The C.H.A.M.P. Program is a partnership that has existed between APU and the Azusa Unified School District since 1991. In 2000, the program grew to become a service learning project for APU students enrolled in EDUC 405 Diversity in the Classroom, enabling students to get first hand experience with issues of race, culture, and diversity that exist in the setting of a fourth grade classroom. During the course of a semester, fourth grade students receive a college mentor who invests in their lives once a week, and explores their passions, talents, and hopes for the future with them.

The fruit of this program proved to be abundant as each fourth grade student marched up the stage to receive their C.H.A.M.P. diploma while Pomp and Circumstance played in the background. Ginny Dadaian, APU’s director of community relations, Principal Victoria Avila of Paramount Elementary, and parent/translator Maria Mejia, stood on the stage to shake hands with each student. The APU buddies and families of the students cheered for them as their names and future professions were called out over the microphone.

Throughout the night, it became evident that the C.H.A.M.P. Program exists to celebrate learning. Three student essay winners, representing each elementary school, shared their experience alongside their principals. Karina Mejia, the essay winner from Magnolia, expressed how much she learned through C.H.A.M.P. “I enjoyed C.H.A.M.P. because it let me understand what I could study in college and that it is an opportunity for everyone including myself.” Mejia’s mother Maria, translator for the event, expressed her support for the program. “I think it is awesome because it instills in children at a young age that college is attainable.”

This support for the C.H.A.M.P. Program came not only from the parents of the students involved, but from the teachers and principals as well. Mike Monger, fourth grade teacher at Magnolia Elementary School expressed how valuable this experience is for his students. “It is such a neat experience for them to get a look at the students who are going to college.” Conger emphasized how meaningful it is for fourth grade students to build a relationship with the APU students, and they realize that they can be a college student also.

The principal of Magnolia Elementary School, Lynn Jorgensen, expresses her gratitude to the program, “I am very thankful to APU for partnering with us to set the dream of college in motion.”

APU C.H.A.M.P. buddy Hannah Tribole ’07 shared that “No matter what type of limitation we put on ourselves, or have put on us by other people, there is always an opportunity to be encouraged and to rise above it.” Throughout the program, Tribole watched her C.H.A.M.P. buddies struggle to understand certain things at first, yet by encouraging them in what they were able to comprehend, she saw them reach inside themselves and pull something out that they didn’t know was there.

This process of learning is the process of true education, and the C.H.A.M.P. Program seeks to foster this dream of learning, and make it a reality.