Yesterday, the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games kicked off in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, students across the U.S. and Canada were busy cheering on their athlete mentors from afar. Many have even gotten the chance to speak to these athletes face-to-face. That’s all thanks to Classroom Champions, a non-profit organization that partners with teachers and local education districts to connect athletes—including Olympians, Paralympians, College Student-Athletes and NFL players—with students in grades K-8 as a part of its ongoing mentorship program.
Through live, moderated BlueJeans video chats, Classroom Champions is able to expand the classroom like never before by connecting up to 300 students at a time with athlete mentors. During these distance learning sessions, the athletes focus on topics such as goal-setting, achieving success, and overcoming failures through their own experiences.
“What these athletes are able to provide these kids is an engaging and inspirational kind of mentorship; one that helps students develop social-emotional skills critical for success both in and out of the classroom,” says Classroom Champions co-founder, president & CEO, Steve Mesler. “Building a meaningful relationship with someone kids look up to helps make a positive, lasting impact.”
These meaningful relationships are already paying off. Conducting more than 600 live video chats per year between athletes and kids, Classroom Champions has been able to reach approximately 35,000 students across North America. The program has helped to improve student attendance by 85 percent, grades by 93 percent and digital literacy skills by 91 percent—something that didn’t go unnoticed by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).
IOC Award Winning Athlete Mentorship Program
Each year, the IOC grants Olympic Committee’s permission to give out the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Trophy for Olympism in Action, which acknowledges those who use sport to build a better, more peaceful world. After seeing what a powerful engagement tool video has been for connecting athletes to students worldwide in a meaningful way, the Canadian Olympic Committee deemed Classroom Champions the 2018 recipient of this prestigious award.
Athletes who have participated in Classroom Champions include Lex Gillette (blind, multiple Paralympic medalist), Christian Taylor (2-time Olympic gold medalist), Meryl Davis (Olympic gold and silver medalist), and Tristan Walker (Canadian silver medalist).
Extending the Classroom with Modern Video Conferencing
In order to bring athletes to students in a highly impactful way, Classroom Champions needed a video conferencing tool that was simple for anyone to use and worked seamlessly from any device, anywhere. “Meeting someone and shaking their hands is easy and intuitive. Our video solution had to have that same handshake feel for our kids or it disrupts the relationship we're trying to build. With BlueJeans, the technology doesn’t get in the way. That's our number one priority,” Mesler notes. “BlueJeans delivers reliability. Many of our schools are in very remote regions where bandwidth may not be very good, but we never get any complaints about BlueJeans.”
Modern video conferencing simplifies the join process. “BlueJeans makes that handshake authentic so the kids don't even notice the technology, they’re meeting their athlete mentor...that's it. Not meeting them via live video chat, but simply: we met our athlete mentor today, he/she's amazing, and I got to ask him/her questions, and he/she gave me answers!” explains Mesler.
Prior to BlueJeans, there were constant issues occurring when connecting to schools, including ongoing firewall traversal or bandwidth issues. With BlueJeans, that's no longer a problem. Furthermore, athletes were sometimes unable to work with other meeting technologies like GoToMeeting, Webex, and Google Hangouts due to poor connections and non-intuitive interfaces. Such roadblocks are also a thing of the past.
Today, Classroom Champions uses BlueJeans for both internal and external meetings. “It's the one place our team knows to show up when there’s a meeting,” adds Mesler. BlueJeans Google Calendar integration increases their ability to schedule meetings, saving time, while giving participants multiple join options from video to audio-only conference calls. They also record meetings for easy playback with BlueJeans, as well as host dozens of professional development webinars for teachers.
Connecting students with world-class athlete mentors, supporting teachers, and engaging families helps inspire children to achieve successful futures. BlueJeans is proud to play a role in helping Classroom Champions continue their mission of empowering athletes to make a meaningful, measurable and lasting impact on the lives of children.
Good luck to all of the athletes participating in this year’s Special Olympics World Games!