300 png

About the Champion Academy


The Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Initiative (Champion Academy) is a groundbreaking mentoring program in Rochester, NY providing hundreds of teens in poverty the much-needed support necessary to overcome adversity and maximize their potential in school, at home and in the community.


Founded in 2015 by a former Rochester teen in poverty-turned NFL Super Bowl Champion, the Champion Academy uses its firsthand understanding of the cultural nuances of this complex population to create an authentic, cost-effective and transformative ecosystem to instill the hard and soft skills necessary to break out of emotional and economic poverty.  Program elements include:


  • Classroom Checkups
  • College & Career Readiness Training
  • Community Service
  • Daily Motivation
  • E-Mentoring
  • Exposure Opportunities
  • Extra-Curricular Activities
  • Fitness & Nutrition Education
  • Member Accountability Coaches
  • Monthly Meet Ups
  • Parent Support
  • Summer Orientation



The Champion Academy is open to full-time students in grades 7-12 that are referred to us by participating principals, teachers, police officers, social workers, judges and/or community stakeholders as students in desperate need of "extreme mentoring".  Recommended students must also have THREE or more of the following research-based risk factors for dropping out of school:


  • Failing grade in core subjects
  • Multiple school suspensions
  • Low standardized test scores
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Living in a single-parent home
  • Overage for a grade level
  • Experienced multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)



Rochester's teen crisis is serious threat to the future economic health and vitality of the entire region. Without impactful interventions to instill the discipline, accountability and character needed to succeed at home, school and in the community, droves of undisciplined, unprepared and uninspired teens will continue to flood into schools and into community with little chance for success.


With current graduation rates within Rochester City School District dead last in New York State and among the worst in the nation, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this vicious cycle.  When a teenager drops out of school, more than 80% end up either in poverty, in jail or having children before the age of 24, costing taxpayers millions in subsidies and assistance. We must be proactive to break this sickening cycle.


Since 2015, the Champion Academy’s award-winning Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Model has achieved unprecedented results and is quickly becoming the new standard of outcome-driven mentorship for teens facing enormous odds.

Message from our founder: It's Time to GET INVOLVED

A-RolandWilliams_Photo (1)

Dear Future Teammate,


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


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


  • Home to a city school district with one of the worst graduation rates in America; dead last among New York's major cities?


  • Home to a school district where only 1% of its 8th graders passed state testing in math and more than 20% of its students ages 13-17 are suspended each year?


  • A district where more than 80% of its students have experienced some form of trauma at home or at school?


As proud Rochestarian and graduate of its city school district, when I first learned about these statistics, I was a bit shocked. While Rochester has always had its share of problems, seeing my hometown in writing as one of the "worst" in any category was especially annoying.  Anyone that knows about Rochester, NY and its surrounding communities know that this region is an abundant place full of promise and opportunity. It was saddening to learn that so many teenagers were struggling.


Being born and raised in the infamous 19th Ward of Rochester's inner city, I've seen firsthand what happens in communities surrounded by poverty, teenage pregnancy, gangs, drugs, violence, mental abuse, crime and incarceration. I've seen the tears. Experienced the trauma. Understand much of the pains.  To add to my exposure, my father worked for 30+ years as a juvenile correctional officer at Monroe County Children's Center and St. Joseph's Villa where I saw far too often what happens when teens grow up in toxic environments with limited guidance.


Since my retirement from the NFL, I've stayed quite competitive and have a passion for helping those who don't have a voice.  In this instance, I wanted to learn for myself what was at the root of all this turmoil.  So I went to work.  After a year of research flying back and forth between Rochester and my home in Los Angeles, my shock turned into heartbreak, outrage and a strong calling to intervene.



I grew upset seeing the increasing academic failure and ignorance of too many teenagers growing up in poverty in my hometown. I grew tired of watching school teachers treated with constant disrespect in classrooms. I grew sick of hearing the horror stories from local business leaders about the dismal state of the region's current worker pool. It broke my heart listening to parents reasons for not raising successful students and citizens. It was clear that teens in poverty needed our help and empowerment.  Innovation and solutions instead of contempt and criticism.


That's where the Champion Academy comes in. Starting from firsthand knowledge of the complex home, school and environmental realities teens in poverty face everyday, the Champion Academy provides its members with an authentic and relatable layer of accountability, support and consistency teens in poverty need to thrive.


In 2015, we began this journey with a multi-year pilot of the Champion Academy and its unique Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Model in my hometown.  Said simply, over the last four years, our results have been nothing short of amazing.  Students facing multiple challenges that could easily lead to dropping out are going from F's to A's.  Students are improving attitudes and work ethic. Better manners. But most importantly, ready to stand up and fight for the future they really want for themselves, their families and this region. Exciting stuff.


If interested, feel free to click HERE to see our academic and social-emotional outcomes since 2015. Not bad with for a team that started out with zero full-time employees and operated on a shoestring budget.


Since our humble beginnings, the Champion Academy is now starting to grow roots in the local community.  To date, the Champion Academy has received significant support from community leaders and philanthropists including Tom Bonadio, Pat Burke, the William & Mildred Levine Foundation, Wanda Polisseni & family, and many more. We tapped into strong business minds to create a sound financial and operating model that will provide sustained success for years to come.


Now, all we need are heroes just like you to join our efforts.


Please take a look at the rest of our website to learn more about the Champion Academy then do all you can to support our efforts. Whether it is the gift of time, product, service, monetary donation or connecting us with others who care, every effort is appreciated.  Please join us.  The future of this entire region is on the line.


If you have any additional questions about the the Champion Academy, you can always feel free to email me directly at Roland@ChampionAcademyROC.org or to our teammates at info@championacademyroc.org.  Thank you in advance for all your support!


Together Can Make A Difference,

Roland Williams
NFL Super Bowl Champion | Founder

Champion Academy Extreme Mentoring & Empowerment Initiative