What is CHAMPS?

CHAMPS is an acronym for Communities Helping Assisting Motivating Promising Students. CHAMPS is a partnership program designed to provide promising students with a vision of their future and stimulate them to strive toward post-secondary education. Its mission is to nurture, motivate and challenge selected Richland County students who have the potential but who otherwise may fall short of their highest educational potential. A student enters the CHAMPS program during his/her rising seventh-grade year and remains in the program until the student graduates from high school.

How are participants selected?

Participants are selected by the CHAMPS Steering Committee. Richland School Districts One and Two guidance departments assist the program in deciding who might be appropriate to participate in the program. Twenty students are selected each year. Once students are identified, they are given an application and then must go through the application process. Applicants' suitability for the program is determined based on academic performance, the students' individual needs, and the overall interest shown by students and parents.

What do CHAMPS Students do?

In accordance with established criteria, each year rising seventh-grader enters CHAMPS by participating in the Summer Program. During the Summer Program students are given intensive two-week academic instruction and support, in addition to career exploration opportunities and service learning. Christian-based character education is an integral component of the curriculum. Students' participation in the Summer Program continues through the sophomore year. During the summers preceding eleventh and twelfth grades, the students have the opportunity to act as mentors-in-training to the younger students, thereby gaining leadership skills and experience to assist in their college selection process. Throughout the year, older students receive assistance with college admissions and scholarship application processes through CHAMPS Phase 2.

Additionally, during the academic year, follow-up activities are designed for both parents/guardians and students. These follow-up activities are designed to educate the students and broaden their horizons in a variety of areas. Follow-ups include college visits, service learning projects, and various enrichment activities.

Rebekah Gaston is the new director of Eastminster’s C.H.A.M.P.S. Program (Communities Helping, Assisting, Motivating Promising Students). She and her husband, Caleb, are members of EPC (6 years) and have two young daughters, Emma Kate (2) and Audrey (8 months). 

Originally from East Tennessee, she received her undergraduate degree in athletic training at Carson Newman. She then went to Clemson for graduate studies in Counseling Education. She has spent the last twelve years as an athletic trainer working with all ages, especially young men and women. It’s now time to use her Masters. 

She loves being outdoors and serving God, both of which are a big part of her new role as director. When asked how she spends her week, she said

“One of the main things we are doing right now is getting C.H.A.M.P.S. started for the fall. We had our first parent-student meeting a few Saturdays ago to get acquainted and oriented. Going forward, we will host one Saturday student event per month."