Champion Academy offers mentoring for Rochester youth

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Kids in the Rochester City School District got to hang out with a Superbowl champion on Tuesday.

You may be familiar with Roland Williams, a football star of the Rams, who graduated from East High School in 1993. Nine years ago, he started a year-long mentoring program for youth called Champion Academy. And while Williams lives in Los Angeles now, he said he’s still very much a part of the Rochester community.

Williams explained an analogy about how this camp works: There’s 11 players on a football team. All 11 people need to do their job in order to succeed. One person may get the glory, as Roland said, but there’s a lot of support behind that glory. That’s exactly how it works in a young adult’s life. Kids just need a safe space to express themselves and grow comfortable in their own skin.

“For every negative thing that’s happening in Rochester, there’s so many positive things that are going on,” he said. “There’s so many students that are making better decisions, and changing who they were last year. We have to give them opportunity to do that, to grow and give them a safe space to go through the same process many of us went through in our teenage years.”

Alum Raven Jess went on to get two degrees, and returned to help on Tuesday.

“I love the kids that say they look up to me,” said Jess. “I like to be the inspiration, they say I have inspired them to do something. It gives me a joy in my heart.”

Kids in grades 7-12 are invited to check out orientation. It takes place at East High from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. this week and next week. Organizers say it’s free. About 100 kids are estimated to attend this year.

Roland will back on Wednesday, to share his expertise.