Jacksonville nonprofit organization selected by Google for ideas

Nonprofit organization CEO Steve Mesler speaks about mission


JACKSONVILLE – A nonprofit organization that is "virtually" based in Jacksonville was selected by Google Wednesday to develop ideas using Google Glass. Classroom Champions was one of five nonprofits that were chosen to help develop ideas using web-connected Google Glass to enhance their work.

"We connect Olympic and Paralympic athletes with students in high-need schools across the U.S.," explained CEO and Founder Steve Mesler.

News4Jax spoke with Mesler Wednesday night about the nonprofit's mission.

"The athletes send video lessons throughout the entire year and build relationships with the kids, and the kids get to send things back to their Olympians and Paralympians and a relationship is formed.

"Kids get to do deep dives into goal setting, perseverance and community involvement and we work with the teachers to help them implement these lessons into their current curriculum," said Mesler.

Google chose Classroom Champions from more 1,300 applicants to use Google Glass to support their work.

"We won a $25,000 grant, which is great. We won a set of Google Glass and we also won a trip to San Francisco next week. We are (also) going to be able to work with Google developers to actually make the project come to life and really make an amazing experience for students who are part of Classroom Champions," said Mesler.

Mesler explained that they will mainly work with Paralympic athletes on the Google Glass project. Blind Paralympian medalist Lex Gillette will actually travel to Google in San Francisco with the Classroom Champions team next week to help develop the idea of using Google Glass.

"Lex is going to use glass and wear glass and he's a track athlete, so he will go through long jump and he'll go through relay baton exchanges and he will wear glass and record these things and make notes for his kids and then we will send that footage to his kids and the kids will be able to write essays and tell Lex what they are seeing. Lex is blind and he actually can't see, so these kids are going to get a view from Lex's eyes that not even Lex has, and they will be able to describe it to him," Mesler said.

Mesler told News4Jax he's excited about the possibilities Google Glass will have on Classroom Champions and the children involved in the organization.

"Our metrics show us that we are increasing kids' goal-setting skills and perseverance skills and their interpersonal skills, and part of that interpersonal skill is increasing their empathy, allowing kids to see through other people's eyes. That's actually a question you ask kids when you are trying to gauge their empathy -- you ask them if they can see through other people's eyes and this will allow us to quite literally give them that experience," said Mesler. 

Mesler explained that the application period for Classroom Champions is closed, but that he and the organization would make an exception for some Jacksonville schools. Mesler is encouraging kindergarten through eighth grade teachers in Jacksonville who are interested in using Classroom Champions as part of their curriculum to log on to their website and get connected to the nonprofit organization.