In fourth-grade they started planning for college through the C.H.A.M.P. Program. This weekend, they get their college diplomas.

Since 1991, Azusa Pacific University’s College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) Program has partnered prospective teachers as “buddies” or mentors with fourth grade students from the Azusa Unified School District for a semester. The goal: to inspire and prepare youth for college. This Saturday, one-time C.H.A.M.P. participants Monica Arellano and Christopher James Richards will achieve that goal when they cross the stage to receive their college diploma.

“The C.H.A.M.P. Program made me realize the importance of higher education and gave me the confidence to strive and do better in school so that one day I could go to college,” said Arellano. “Being that I would be the first in my family to go to college, C.H.A.M.P. opened many doors for my family so this dream can be a reality.” Arellano will graduate with a B.A. in Liberal Studies and hopes to give back to the community that supported her by teaching third and fourth grade in an Azusa Unified School District elementary school.

Christopher James Richards’ involvement in the C.H.A.M.P. Program forever impacted his pursuit for higher education. Richards will graduate with a B.A. in Theatre Arts, and aspires to enter the film industry as a film and television writer/actor/musician. When asked about his favorite C.H.A.M.P. memory, he said, “I had a blast coming to campus, going on a tour, visiting the dormitories and seeing the rooms. It was such a cool experience because it was something that seemed so far off and foreign to me.”

For more information on the C.H.A.M.P. Program, visit To get in touch with the graduates, please contact Allison Oster at (626) 815-4518.