Azusa Pacific University’s College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) program celebrates its 27th year of introducing the idea of college to fourth-grade students in the local community. Approximately 13,600 students have graduated from this program with 203 more crossing the stage at the 2018 spring ceremony on Wed., April 11, at 6:30 p.m., in the Felix Event Center, on APU’s West Campus. A special reception to honor this unique partnership between APU and Azusa Unified School District will take place before graduation at 5 p.m.

The semester-long C.H.A.M.P. program is a service-learning experience for APU students enrolled in EDLS 405 Diversity in the Classroom taught by Paul Flores, Ph.D., professor of liberal studies, and Tolulope Noah Ed.D., assistant professor of liberal studies. APU student-mentors meet weekly with elementary students to teach them about college majors, campus life, financial aid, and careers. During the program, the elementary students visit APU and take a campus tour. Their time in the program concludes with a graduation ceremony where students celebrate with family and friends.

During the 2017-18 school year, this program worked specifically with students from Azusa Unified School District and Baldwin Park Unified School District. Participating elementary schools include Magnolia, Clifford Murray, Paramount, Valleydale, Charles Lee, W. R. Powell, Mountain View, Gladstone Street, Kenmore, and Walnut.

“Years ago APU partnered with Azusa Unified to identify fourth graders as an optimal age for this program,” said Michelle LaPorte, director of the Center for Academic Service-Learning. “Their natural curiosity and development level enables them to process the material and internalize it. We have seen such positive results with our C.H.A.M.P graduates over the years going on to attend APU and other colleges and universities.”

“The intentional curriculum on college majors and career choices is an excellent introduction for our students into thinking about college and career and what they might want to do with their futures,” said Jennifer Weibe, principal of Powell Elementary School in Azusa. “The small group mentoring relationship with a college buddy provides another caring adult and positive role model in each of our students' lives. The benefit of that cannot be measured. The field trip to APU is often the first visit to any college campus for most of our students. And finally, the CHAMP graduation is an event that is looked forward to by students and parents alike.I am so grateful that Powell students have this unique opportunity every year to learn and grow together with APU students.”

This year’s ceremony features APU’s Distinguished Alumna of the Year, Tiffany (Porter ’06) Moore, principal at the KIPP Scholar Academy, a tuition-free public charter middle school in South Los Angeles. She speaks highly of the influence her academic service-learning experiences had on developing her personal passions and career trajectory. During her time at APU, Tiffany was in the Diversity in the Classroom course that leads the College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) program and served as a C.H.A.M.P. mentor.