February 8, 2018 7:44 pm
Updated: February 13, 2018 3:05 pm

Classroom Champions going for Olympic gold, while mentoring thousands of students

Over 25,000 students' lives in Canada and the U.S. have been changed because of a connection with an elite athlete. Dawna Friesen explains what impact those relationships are having.


At least once a month since September, Olympic speed skater Marsha Hudey has had a special relationship with the Grade 5 class at Calgary’s Colonel Walker School.

“This is about creating a connection and a relationship with kids to show them that me as an Olympian or athlete, I’m no different than they are,” Hudey told Global News.

The 27-year-old is their classroom champion, a program that matches Olympic and Paralympic athletes with kids who could use a mentor.

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Hudey, who will be going to South Korea to compete in her second Olympics, helps the students set goals and persevere, not just in sports, but in life.

“It’s really making a difference and it’s awesome to be a part of something like that.”

Ten-year-old student Abbigail Schideler says Hudey is having a really positive impact on everyone in class.

“They like inspire us and we get to talk to them and they give us these monthly challenges that we get to complete,” Shaideler told Global News.

For teacher Geoff Kearney, it’s something he can’t just teach the kids himself.

“It doesn’t matter if the kid wants to be an athlete or what they want to be, it’s just: you can be a champion of whatever you put to your mind to in life,” Kearney said.

Steve Mesler is a retired Olympic athlete who now heads up the Calgary-based charity Classroom Champions

Reid Fiest / Global News

The co-founder of Classroom Champions is former American Bobsledder and three time Olympian Steve Mesler .

“We just wanted to connect with kids,” Mesler told Global News.

Now the head of the Calgary-based charity, Mesler said it was about creating a more meaningful way to mentor kids than just showing off his gold medal.

“You’re going into a school and then you leave and you never see those kids again, so you had no idea if anything you said or did made a difference.”

Classroom Champions found a way to build relationships through Skype, Facetime, or a quick video.

Athletes can stay connected to the kids, even when they’re on the road.

WATCH: Olympic gold medalist and Classroom Champions co-founder Steve Mesler explains how his program connects students with Team Canada athletes.

They now have 125 Olympians and Paralympians connected with 1,000 classrooms across North America.

Among them is Olympic runner Akeem Haynes, who was in one of the first Calgary classes Mesler was matched with in 2009.

Brigitte Lacquette, the first Indigenous hockey player to be named to Canada’s national women’s team, now gives back by mentoring First Nations classrooms.

“Our measurements are telling us that grades are up, attendance is up, behavioural problems are being solved. Bullying was down 63 per cent in our classrooms,” Mesler noted.

Since classroom champions began, it’s reached over 25,000 students, teaching them anything is possible.

“Marsha Hudey is not teaching kids to speed skate, she’s teaching kids to set a goal like she does,” Mesler said.

“She’s teaching kids to get up after they fall. She’s teaching kids to lead like she does.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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