CHAMPS (Communities Helping, Assisting, Motivating Promisings Students) gives deserving Laurens County students a taste of college life.

Seventh through 10th grade students, all from the county, recently took classes on the Presbyterian College campus as part of CHAMPS summer program, while high school juniors and seniors take trips to colleges.

CHAMPS helps initiate interest.

All in all, 128 students participated in the program that began on June 8 and lasted until June 28.

Katelyn Norris participated in CHAMPS and received the Jerman Disasa Scholarship to attend PC. She graduated in May. Norris remembers being on the PC campus for the first time. She was a sixth-grader from Hickory Tavern Middle School then.

It was thrilling being on a college campus,” she said. “I loved being with a group of people who really focused on you and wanted you to succeed.

It was hard classwork, but it was fun because we were doing science, we were doing public speaking and we were doing fun things that we didn't get to necessarily do during the year.”

This summer, CHAMPS students took STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and storytelling classes taught by teachers from local school districts. CHAMPS mentors and volunteers taught students life skills in fun classes like Art Devotions and Game-making.

CHAMPS students also participated in praise and worship this summer. Seventh and eighth grade students were on campus one week, followed by ninth and 10th graders.

I like that CHAMPS is community-based,” Norris said. “Many churches and businesses aren’t recognized for what they do, but they help a lot.”

Norris also says the program helps keep students motivated.

Some students may not get the motivation at home,” she said, “and that's the kids we're really trying to reach.”

The 11th and 12th grade students participated this summer too. They’ve used their time out of school wisely by taking trips to two colleges so far.

Mentors like Norris help the students navigate the college search by reminding them to ask questions such as ones about financial aid.

CHAMPS mentors and volunteers work with the students throughout the year so they are able to maintain personal and academic goals. According to Susanne McCarley, member of the CHAMPS leadership team and administrative assistant for Religious Life & Community Engagement, all CHAMPS staff and volunteers work together for student success.

Since 2001, when the first group enrolled in college, CHAMPS has been channeling more than 90 percent of its graduates to colleges and universities.