Where’s James? Catching Up with Classroom Champions Founder Steve Mesler

PVF’s Executive Director, James Higa, recently met with Steve Mesler, bobsledding Olympic Gold Medalist and co-founder, President, and CEO of Classroom Champions.

Classroom Champions partners Olympic and Paralympic athletes with students in high-need schools with the intention of helping students build skills such as goal setting, perseverance, and teamwork. These “athlete mentors” send themed video lessons to their assigned classes, and teachers connect these lessons to existing curriculum. Students then respond through photographs, video messages, and live video chat with the mentors. Last year, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation provided a seed grant to Classroom Champions to fund four new San Mateo County classrooms.

James got an update about these classrooms, learned about the new College Champions program (which connects K-8 classes in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ with student-athlete mentors at the University of Pennsylvania), and brainstormed with Steve about how to expand the program to other universities.

Steve said, “Philanthropic Ventures Foundation identified the unique impact model of Classroom Champions as an opportunity to bring innovative mentoring to East Palo Alto schools – and made bringing programming to life simple. PVF has also continued to lend support and guidance well past the funding stage around strategic thinking both locally and internationally. We’re grateful for PVF’s support and what we’re able to provide the students and teachers in East Palo Alto.”

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