MJR Foundation Aims To Empower Student Athletes With CHAMPS Program

MJR Foundation Aims To Empower Student Athletes With CHAMPS Program

Kristen Roberts, founder and co-president of the Miles Jeffrey Roberts Foundation (MJRF), is on a mission to empower the youth athletic community to promote mental wellbeing and suicide prevention.

After losing her son Miles to suicide in 2017, Roberts along with her husband set up a fund with the University of Michigan’s Depression Center in Miles’ name. This fund supported the Peer to Peer Mentoring program that is run through the Depression Center and allowed the program to expand from the high school level into middle schools. The Roberts worked closely with many at the Depression Center and eventually decided they wanted to create their own foundation in Miles’ honor.

“In August of 2019, we started a foundation because we wanted to be able to have more of a way to influence the community directly and not have some of the natural bureaucracy that kind of exists,” Roberts said. “We wanted to make it our own.”

Over the last four years, MJRF has given out seven scholarships worth a total of approximately $17,500, participated in a multitude of events and presented to over 60 students in an effort to continue to promote youth mental health and wellbeing within the Washtenaw County community. Their newest effort in furthering their mission is called the MJRF Mental Health Champions program. The program features three Champs: Melissa Schmidt a social worker and golf coach; Andy Nalepa, a school psychologist and the JV field hockey coach at Skyline High School (SHS); and Will Heininger a former football player at the University of Michigan (UM) who now works in mental health education & community outreach for the Depression Center

The program began as a pilot at Skyline High School (SHS) in the Fall of 2022. It aims to help teach coaches, trainers and others in the athletic department to engage with student athletes.

“I am excited about the Champs program in particular because there’s a gap there,” Roberts said. “The coaches are such an important role for the student athletes. Everybody’s doing the best that they can but coaches can always know more or they may not understand completely the complexities of their team but they want to work with the team and help. Sometimes we just need to understand how to have difficult conversations and help each other to connect.”

With SHS as the pilot for the program, MJRF is aiming to expand the program into high schools across Washtenaw County within the next ten years. Their goal is to engage with their next school at the beginning of 2024. Roberts believes it will be critical for the foundation to understand the next school they work with and show that what they have accomplished at Skyline can be recreated at other high schools. 

“Whichever school we end up engaging with and working with we have to understand who the trusted people are because it’s not the same [as SHS],” Roberts said. “We have to work with their staff to try and supportively cultivate a similar structure.”

The foundation has a kickoff fundraiser for the Champs program coming up at German Park which will also act as a four year anniversary celebration for MJRF. The evening will feature food, dancing and a silent auction. Roberts has been doing a lot of reflecting during the runup to this anniversary.

“When you take a step back, sometimes it feels like you’re not doing enough each day and things aren’t going as fast as you’d like them to,” Roberts said. “But I think given that it’s only been four years since the foundation was formed, we’ve really done a lot.”


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About the Contributor
Anjali Kakarla
Anjali Kakarla, Web Editor-In-Chief
Anjali Kakarla is a senior who split-enrolls between Community and Skyline. This is her seventh semester on staff and her third as one of the Web-Editors-In-Chief. When she's not doing schoolwork, playing basketball and golf, or running track for Skyline, she enjoys hanging out with her friends, listening to music and baking. She loves to write and is very excited for journalism this year!

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