Years ago, when Jack Welch was still a college football coach, he wanted to find other ways to positively influence youths around him.
His avenue of communication became the music concerts he organized annually. The Communities Helping American’s Mature, Progress and Succeed program was born out of those concerts and is Welch’s brainchild.
Today C.H.A.M.P.S. is a Copperas Cove school-based program that provides activities and educational information on anti-bullying, teen suicide and the abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs.
“Through C.H.A.M.P.S. kids go fishing, star-gazing, and skeet-shooting,” Welch said. “The girls like deer hunting and video games and we also groom and care for horses, and host sporting events such as the HOT bowl and Texas music jam.”
The program, which is part of Welch’s America’s Drug Free Productions, is geared to seventh- to 12th-graders in the school system, including home-schooled students, said Welch, Copperas Cove High School athletic director and head football coach.
To join, participants must sign a pledge stating they will remain drug free, refrain from alcohol and not be a bully. A $20 membership fee includes a T-shirt and a free pass to all events. Currently the program has 600-800 members per year, and Welch said students can do community service in lieu of the membership fee.
“It’s not about the money, but about connecting kids to school and giving them activities that will keep them learning,” he said. “That’s really where the game is played. When they’re not connected, they fail.
“It’s a fact that of the top 50 academics in our schools, 96 percent are involved in activities.”
The program is more like a ministry to reach young people through activities and music, Welch said.
And, music has always been a part of his life. In fact, he not only manages the Pat Waters and the Chainlink Band, he’s the band’s drummer and together they hosts events for C.H.A.M.P.S.
During one such assembly with Waters a young woman’s life was saved.
“After Pat spoke of being a victim of bullying, this kid came up to him and said she was about to commit suicide that evening but that his speech made her change her mind,” Welch said. “Words are very powerful and if kids are being bullied they need to talk to someone and share it, or else it’ll eat at them.”
In 2013, C.H.A.M.P.S. also introduced a leadership program in which students who perform community service can receive different levels of certificates, “which looks good on a resume for college,” Welch said.
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Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro | Herald