The CHAMPS program launched its 21st summer in June, as the program put on three continuous weeks of summer enrichment with a week each for 7th-8th graders, 9th-10th graders, and 11th-12th graders. These enrichment weeks, organized and facilitated by Laurens County teachers and members of the PC Campus Life staff, were designed to inspire students to pursue higher education and develop the skills necessary to succeed.
This summer, the enrichment weeks focused on the theme of “Giftedness” as described in 1 Peter 4:10: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
The weeks organized for the 7th-8th graders and the 9th-10th graders were similar in that the students had classes on group problem-solving and making Prezi presentations, as well as creative writing, science, and public speaking. These weeks also included small group devotions led by CHAMPS mentors and worship each evening led by a local church. During the week, students helped to plant and water the community garden at Friendship AME Church, and each week concluded with a trip to Charlotte to visit Discovery Place and the Aviation Museum.
When asked his favorite part of the summer enrichment week, 10th grader Devon Harp mentioned the low ropes course the group did as part of their group problem-solving class because this activity allowed them to move around and be active.
Jimmy Lee Gary, also a 10th grader, said, “One of my favorite things is our devotional time, especially one devotional when all the 9th- and 10th-grade guys were together and we talked about being a man. Of course, I love praise and worship as well.”
The program for 11th and 12th graders looked different in that the students spent a few days on campus doing career exploration, learning about financial aid and strategies for college success, touring the College, and hearing from the Admissions department. They also had the opportunity to tour Queens University and visit the Panther Stadium in Charlotte.
When asked how the CHAMPS program has prepared them for the future, both Ben Carter and Holly Thomason noted that the program has allowed them to know that they have options. “We know a little bit more about what we want,” said Thomason. Thomason hopes to study agriculture in college, while Carter, a cross country runner at Laurens County High school, hopes to study architecture.
According to its website, the CHAMPS program is an organization initiated by the collective thinking of leaders from Presbyterian College and the Laurens County community that strives to nurture, motivate, and challenge students who have potential but who otherwise may fall short of their highest educational capacity. Potential CHAMPS students are asked to apply by their 6th-grade teachers, then the PC Religious Life and Service Office partners with Laurens County guidance counselors to determine who would benefit most from the program. Once a student has been accepted, they remain in the program until they move out of the county or graduate high school. These students are given opportunities to serve the community in addition to participating in social, academic, and spiritual engagements.
When asked what the program has meant in his life, Harp offered, “The CHAMPS program gives young students a way to serve the community and give back.”
“CHAMPS is an organization that helps build character in individuals and teaches them the importance of serving the community,” added Gary. “Serving is important as a Christian. In serving others, we are in the process of serving God.”
The program was coordinated by a newly implemented Leadership Team consisting of Tina Childress, a local Montessori teacher who serves as the coordinator for the CHAMPS teachers; Stephanie Barksdale, a CHAMPS and PC alumna who currently teaches 3rd grade in Laurens and serves as the CHAMPS Mentor Coordinator; Susanne McCarley, the administrative assistant for religious life and Service; Lashawna Wright, the assistant director for student involvement and multicultural programs at PC and the CHAMPS coordinator for 11th and 12th graders; and Rachel Parsons-Wells, PC’s Director of Religious Life and Service.
CHAMPS mentors, selected from the PC student body, served as role models for the students in the program and helped throughout each enrichment week.
“The CHAMPS program not only taught me many life lessons but was also a large part of making me into the person I am today,” said Tyler Duvall, a junior at PC and alumnus of the CHAMPS program. Duvall served as a mentor for the program this summer.
“In my opinion, the most important thing that CHAMPS does for its students is to give them mentors that can very easily become a big brother/sister. These mentors become someone the students can look up to and talk to and who give the students advice and support throughout their journey into adulthood,” he said.
Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit www.presby.edu./em>