A teacher is more than an educator. A teacher is a reliable role model, a motivating coach, a trusted friend, and most importantly, a student’s number one fan. This is the idea that initially kick-started CHAMPIONS: DETROIT, an up-and-coming organization of student mentors on campus.

Beginning next fall, student mentors will serve as examples of the opportunities that post-secondary education creates for high school students in Detroit. The organization is looking for individuals who are prepared to go above and beyond — who understand that they are both teaching and setting an example for students. In short, they are looking to provide students in Detroit with “champions.”

“This is more than just another mentor, or another adviser, establishing a more compassionate type of mentorship that is relationship-based,” said LSA sophomore Nathan Sell, a board member of CHAMPIONS.

LSA junior Michael Chrzan, the organization’s executive director, said he began laying the groundwork for this mentorship program after watching a documentary titled “Waiting for Superman.” In the film, social activist Geoffrey Canada states that students in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to know someone who has served time in prison than someone who has been to college. This distinction hit home with Chrzan, a Detroit native. With the implementation of CHAMPIONS: DETROIT, he and his fellow board members aim to change the paradigm.

By establishing trust-based relationships with students, mentors will be able to effectively administer six different areas of focused development. These areas include academic empowerment, identity development, community service, career planning, nutrition and fiscal understanding. Through individual interactions, workshops, field trips and presentations, Detroit students will learn how to apply new information in each of these fields to their own lives.

For both Chrzan and fellow board member and Education graduate student Angela Abiodun, who also grew up in Detroit, academic empowerment and identity development signify two of the development plan’s most crucial components. Chrzan said academic empowerment means not only tutoring students, but also providing them with exposure to different campus environments through the arrangement of college visits. For many high school students in Detroit, this type of firsthand collegiate experience can often be extremely limited, Chrzan said.

Mentors will also help their students analyze the important components of their personal identities, specifically focusing on what it means to be a Detroiter. Chrzan said this means educating students about their communities and the role they play within them. With many of the University student mentors not being from Detroit, the group stresses that mentors be aware of the specific challenges Detroit students face.

The students will be paired with mentors based on an assessment of their compatibility with potential partners. Surveys will be administered to both mentors and students that will help to establish academic strengths and weaknesses, extracurricular interests and plans for the future. More generally, the organization hopes that the closeness in age between mentors and students will facilitate a quality of comfort in each relationship. The goal is for students to feel as though they can relate to the experiences of each mentor.

The creators of CHAMPIONS: DETROIT are looking for Michigan students who understand the power of relationships, and who feel passionately about making a difference in the city of Detroit. Most importantly, Chrzan said, they are seeking not just mentors, but loyal champions who will cheer students on in their pursuit of future success.

CHAMPIONS: DETROIT will release their applications for student mentors in the coming weeks. Following the application process, board members will quickly begin training future mentors so that they will be ready to start working with students in September.

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