Thursday, August 5, 2021

Learn to earn

 Wayne Champions program receives

$500,000 funding endowment pledge

Richard Helppie, at left, of the Helppie Family Charitable
 Foundation and one of the Wayne Memorial High School
 'Champions' along with Lisa Styers of Arrow Cares, Kari D. Walker,
 president and CEO of The Guidance Center and Dr. James Anderson principal
of Wayne Memorial High School celebrate the new endowment outside
Wayne Memorial High School.
Wayne Memorial High School students can continue to compete for cash based on improving their grades. 

The Champions of Wayne program, an educational incentive program established at Wayne Memorial High School in 2008, has received a pledge of $550,000 from the Helppie Family Charitable Foundation. The grant, to be delivered over five years, is designed to be the sustaining financial base for the champions program at the school.  Helppie Foundation co-founders Richard and Leslie Helppie have been the primary sponsors of the champions program since 2009 and have contributed more than $1.3 million to the grade-enhancement opportunity.  Students sign a contract to make a specific grade point improvement and choose a mentor to help them achieve their goal. When they make their goal, the program pays them $200 in cash as a reward for their improved grades.

Champions also has received a commitment from Jeff and Lisa Styers, adding another $50,000 to their support as founding donors.

Simultaneous with the grant from the Helppie Foundation, champions has announced that  the program operations will combine with The Guidance Center (TGC). TGC, established in 1958, is one of the premier non-profit organizations in Wayne County which last year served 16,000 children and adults. The program offers early childhood and mental health support among a vast array of other services as part of the 25 programs operated by the agency throughout Wayne County.

The champions program, open to all students at Wayne Memorial High School, continues unchanged as originally developed and maintains the champions name.  The Guidance Center  will seek additional and new funders to achieve the goals of the program and enhance student impact.

From its inception in 2008 with a small number of student champions (the student participants are referred to as champions) the program has grown significantly, reaching 600 students and 130 mentors in some semesters. Academic improvements are seen in 65 percent of the champions.  Champions who successfully achieve their goals for a semester receive their $200 incentive and are celebrated at an awards banquet.  At the end of each semester students look forward to the awards and recognitions banquet that includes inspirational speakers, shared success stories, and individual recognition. To date the program has provided more than $600,000 in awards at banquet celebrations to the student champions.  

“The goal is to serve all students at Wayne Memorial High School and work to expand the effective program to other school districts in Wayne County,” explained The Guidance Center President and CEO Kari Walker who has been serving as board chair for Champions of Wayne. Walker is an alumnus of Wayne Memorial High School.

“Since coming to Wayne Memorial in 2019, I have seen firsthand how Champions of Wayne impacts students' lives in positive ways.  This partnership between Champions of Wayne and The Guidance Center solidifies the future of the program and continued success.” Dr. James Anderson, principal of Wayne Memorial High School, added.

Richard Helppie, co-founder of the Helppie Family Charitable Foundation was enthusiastic about the new venture.

“Champions of Wayne has had a material positive impact on both individual students and the learning culture at Wayne Memorial. Leslie and I have long sought a way to give champions a pathway to perpetuity. By combining with the outstanding management of TGC, we believe that the program's future is very bright.”