Olympians Mentor Students in Classroom Champions Program

The charity was founded by gold medal-winning bobsledder Steve Mesler

Erin Hamlin’s training and competition schedule takes her on the road a lot. But that hasn’t stopped the three-time Olympian from giving back as a mentor to kids.

Hamlin, who became the first U.S. Olympian to medal in singles luge with her bronze in Sochi, was facing pressure of a different sort on Wednesday. She appeared remotely via Skype at a fifth grade classroom in Manhattan as part of a mentoring program called Classroom Champions.

The charity was founded by gold medal-winning bobsledder Steve Mesler to help build character in students with lessons focused on teamwork and building self-confidence.

Hamlin, a native of Remsen, New York, has participated through Skype with four different classrooms in the program. She has also responded to video questions with students throughout the school year.

Some of the questions she received from the fifth-graders at P.S. 4 in Washington Heights: What does she eat on the road? The answer: lots of lean meats and protein from local stores to help build muscle. What was her favorite city to compete in? Nagano, Japan, during the 1998 Winter Games for its blend of modern with old world history. Do you know how to whip and nae nae? "You'll have to show me how," Hamlin responded.  

Teacher Brent Nycz is in his third year as a partner with Classroom Champions.

"The personal connections my students and I make with athlete mentors changes their lives in ways they may not understand yet as fifth graders," he said.

Student Juan Zapata said the experience has "made us more social with each other."

Other students said their mentor has helped with persevering in writing and public speaking.

Hamlin and other former Olympians affiliated with the program will be headed to the NBC 4 New York and Telemundo 47 Health & Fitness Expo this weekend at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

The group also includes Mesler, volleyball player Heather Bown, a silver medalist; Para-alpine skier Tyler Carter, and gold medal-winning rower Taylor Ritzel.

Those who visit the Classrooms Champions section of the event can create a postcard to send to athletes who are competing in the Rio Olympics this summer.

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