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About the Champion Academy

Founded in 2015 by Rochester native, NFL Super Bowl Champion and philanthropist Roland Williams, the Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Initiative (Champion Academy) was created to solve Rochester’s teen crisis by providing participants with the much-needed accountability, consistency and support necessary to succeed as students and citizens.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is eligible to participate in the Champion Academy?

The Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Initiative (called "Champion Academy" for short) is open to students in grades 7th-12th that are in critical need of extreme mentorship. Since there are thousands of students in this region who fit this criteria, we rely on nominations from teachers, administrators, police officers and community stakeholders to nominate candidates who are in most dire need.

2. Is the Champion Academy a "football program"?

No. The Champion Academy is not a 'football camp' or a sports program, but we certainly understand the question.  It's not often that the same NFL Super Bowl Champion and Rochester, New York native who has been known for hosting educational football camps in the Greater Rochester Area since 2000 evolves to something this substantial.  But if you know Roland Williams, he's a pretty unique guy!


The Champion Academy is an extreme mentoring program with its purpose to build character, increase focus and promote the development of skills to help our members improve as students and citizens. We simply use some of the valuable framework of football to integrate into program elements. A few examples:


  • When students are accepted into the Champion Academy, they are "drafted" and put into small groups named after NFL franchises.
  • Instead of terms like "mentor" or "counselor", we call our team "coaches."
  • Instead of "group discussions" we call them "league" and "franchise" meetings.
  • Instead of calling the spaces we meet "classrooms," we call them "locker rooms."
  • During the year, we play a game called "On-Field Life-Ball" which uses similar rules and structure of flag football.



3. How much does the Champion Academy cost to participants?

The Champion Academy does not cost any money to attend. Thanks to the support of heroic donors who care about the future of this region, the only "cost" participants are required to pay is to give their complete focus, effort and discipline to improve as students and citizens.

4. What is "extreme mentoring"?

In the dictionary, the word extreme means to "reach the highest degree; very great."  At the Champion Academy, extreme mentoring simply means we aren't afraid to do or say whatever it takes to help each member reach their fullest potential.

5. How long is the Champion Academy?

The Champion Academy is a yearlong program starting with a 10-day summer orientation in July. While we won't go into the exact particulars of the "secret sauce" that makes the Champion Academy so unique, here are a few notable features members of the program get to enjoy:


  • Summer Orientation
  • E-Mentoring
  • Monthly Meetups
  • Community Service
  • Daily Motivation
  • Classroom Checkups
  • Extra-Curricular Activities
  • Strategic Incentives
  • Health & Fitness Education
  • Parent Support
  • Exposure Opportunities
  • Member Accountability

6. What are the results so far?

The results of this initiative include increased academic performance, increased community service, and improved relationships with peers, adults and authority figures.  Please take a look at our results page to learn more.

Message from our founder: It's Time to Innovate

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Rochester New York Skyline

Dear Future Teammate,


When I'm asked what inspired me to create the Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Initiative, let me start by asking you a few questions. Did you know that Rochester, New York was:


  • Ranked top in America per-capita in childhood poverty, extreme poverty and single-parent, female-headed homes?


  • Home of the lowest graduation rates of black and latino males in the nation?


  • Home of a city school district that only 1% of 8th grade students passed their state testing in Math?


  • Home of a city school district where one in five students ages 13-17 are suspended each year?


  • Home of a city school district that more than 80% of its students have experienced some form of trauma?


As proud Rochestarian and graduate of its city school district, when I first learned these statistics, I was shocked and embarrassed. With all the wealth, intelligence and resources in the Greater Rochester Area, I couldn't comprehend how my hometown had fallen so low in so many areas.


As a father of three myself, I have always taught my sons to work hard, live with passion and have the courage to stand up for what they believe is right. In this instance, it was my turn.  While Rochester has always had its share of problems, "worst in America" was a bit too much to bear.  Rochester, NY is not that bad, is it?

The more I thought about it, the more my shock and embarrassment turned into pure outrage.  It was time for this retired NFLer to leave the comforts of suburban Los Angeles to turn his outrage into action.


Born and raised in the 19th Ward on the west side of Rochester, I've seen first hand the negative residuals of poverty, gangs, drugs, violence, abuse, theft, teenage pregnancy and incarceration destroying the lives of too many.  My father worked for more than 30 years at Monroe County Children's Center and St. Joseph's Villa as a juvenile corrections counselor.  Everyday he came home, it was a sobering reminder of what can happen to teens who make poor decisions.


Fast forward to present day...


I'm tired of seeing the failure and ignorance of too many teens in my hometown. Disrespectful attitudes.   Breaking basic laws.  In-school fights and out-of-school brawls from. Greece Ridge Mall to the Lilac Festival.  Hearing constant complaints from business leaders about the poor work ethic and social skills of the worker pool. Constant reports from family, friends, teachers and administrators about the constant increases in bullying, violence, gangs and sexual activity both inside the schools and on the streets.

It's time for this nonsense to stop.  At a bare minimum, it's time to get things trending in a more positive direction.  But in order to get this accomplished, it's going to require us to honestly confront some inconvenient truths about the origins of our increasing teen challenges.

That's where the Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Initiative (or Champion Academy for short) comes in. With an in-depth understanding of the complex environmental realities teens in poverty face every day, the Champion Academy provides its members with the critical accountability, support and consistency teens in poverty need to succeed.


In the summer of 2015, we began a pilot of the Champion Academy and our results so far have been nothing short of amazing.  To be more specific, program outcomes from our first full academic year included:

  • 300+ middle and high school participants representing 50 schools and 18 zip codes in Greater Rochester Area.


  • 82% of active members improved their Grade Point Average (GPA) from the previous year.


  • 10 active members achieved a 4.0 GPA for the first time in their academic careers.


  • 41 active members achieved a 3.0 GPA for the first time in their academic careers.


  • 85% of active members improved financial literacy competency.


  • 95% of active members improved attitudes towards developing healthy relationships with peers & adults outside of family.


  • 92% of active members improved attitudes towards developing healthy relationships with police officers and authority figures.


  • 2,000+ hours of community service donated from FIRST TIME philanthropists.

Not bad considering we had zero full-time employees and operated on a shoestring budget.


In year two, thanks to the support of community leaders also interested in game-changing solutions, we finally have some full-time staff and are building the infrastructure necessary to make the Champion Academy a permanent fixture in Rochester community.   And as expected, our outcomes were even better.  Please take a look at our results page to learn more.


But to win this game, we are going to need your help.


Please take a look at the rest of our website and do what you can to join the Champion Academy family. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me directly at Roland@ChampionAcademyROC.org.  Thank you in advance for joining me in this fight for the future of this region.


Welcome To The Team,

Roland Williams
NFL Super Bowl Champion | Founder


PS.    If you are interested in learning about my life outside of the Champion Academy, click here!