By Otis Woods, CHAMPS Mentor at CICS Longwood


“Education, Exposure, and Empowerment.”  These are the words that I heard while I was sitting at my first graduation for my students at CICS Longwood, a charter school on Chicago’s South Side. The words echoed from the voice of keynote speaker, Tony Briscoe. He further explained the 3 E’s and why they are important. 


“Education, because we believe that our young men must have proper educational support in school and life. Empowerment, because we believe young men should be equipped to lead, communicate, and engage in activities to develop their manhood. Lastly, exposure because we believe that our young men should be exposed  beyond the four walls of  school experience.” 


Briscoe’s speech to the graduates and the adults that were in the audience was a call for action by  helping culturally and making positive success with our youth. The  speech ended by  him mentioning CHAMPS, a  male mentoring program whose  mission is oriented around impacting young men beyond the four walls and practicing the 3 E’s. Inspired, I approached him after his keynote speech to learn more about this male mentoring program. This conversation led  me to meet Vondale Singleton, the founder of CHAMPS. 


After meeting Vondale, I was empowered to charter CHAMPS at CICS Longwood middle school. My first group consisted of 4 black young men in 8th grade and this  group expanded to 7 by the end of the school year. In our sessions, we focused on a socially-relevant curriculum given by CHAMPS.  Outside the classroom, we created a brotherhood by engaging in professional conferences, college tours, and game-day lock-ins. During these activities, they were exposed to a variety of accomplished black men from a range of fields. This exposure gave them a model on what they can be in the future. Going on the third year, and even through a pandemic, CHAMPS is still serving young black men. Because of the program and the value of mentorship, I am able to see these young men grow academically, socially and emotionally. 


I came to the realization that it started because I answered a call for action


Now! I am calling for you to act. 


For more Black men to act and who are willing to fight for our youth in this upcoming decade. 


We need more black men to collectively come together to EDUCATE. EMPOWER and EXPOSE.