Our greatest assets are our people—each driven by a passion for helping students!
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Mary Lyn Hammer
PRESIDENT AND CEO
In January 1988, a private career school in Tempe, Arizona anticipated the importance that would be placed on student loan default prevention and hired Mary Lyn Hammer as a full-time Default Manager. Coming from a banking background where the primary goal of servicing was to keep borrowers current and prevent foreclosures and repossessions, Ms. Hammer was appalled to find that fraud and abuse were rampant in the student loan industry.
Early on, Ms. Hammer realized that the only way to complete proper loan servicing was to intervene and act as a liaison between the borrowers and their servicers, a truth that remains today. The Champion program is based on essential, proven-successful “Hands-On” techniques that were exceptional at preventing student loan defaults then, and continues to be just as effective now. Numerous requests from schools needing assistance led Ms. Hammer to form Hands On Default Management, Inc. in January 1990. Since then, many schools have experienced dramatic results by implementing this program.
In 2004 Ms. Hammer formed Champion College Services, a name that better represents the company’s objectives and goals, portfolio of offerings, and the relationships between ourselves and the clients whom we serve. Our professional strategic partnerships, coupled with our vision, will propel our direction to continually improve our offerings and our relationships in the higher education arena.
Ms. Hammer has worked closely with congressional representatives and key staff at the U.S. Department of Education on many issues during her career in higher education. She remains politically active today as an expert advisor to Education officials, lawmakers, and industry liaisons in her drive to maintain student loan integrity and quality education for all students. It is through her vision and passion that Champion continues to lead the way in student loan management and default prevention.
On January 22, 2016, Ms. Hammer released a special report (made publicly available in book format) which provides well-documented evidence of the U.S. Department of Education’s consistent pattern of data manipulation, misreporting, and strategic lack of reporting that drive the agendas that threaten to annihilate American education ideals. (Read more about the special report Injustice for All.)
Ms. Kesson started her experience with student loans working for Southwest Student Services as an Account Maintenance Specialist in 2005 where she processed forbearances and deferments for student borrowers as well as updating accounts from Clearinghouse reports. When the company was purchased by Sallie Mae, Ms. Kesson was hired on to work in loan originations for FFELP loans and expanded her knowledge into PLUS and private loans.
Ms. Kesson came to work at Champion College Services in July 2006 as a Support Services Specialist and was promoted to Auditor in her first year. In July 2007, Ms. Kesson was promoted to Client Relations Manager, where she was the direct contact for all of Champion’s clients. She assisted school clients in understanding their rates and trends and what was needed for them to meet their goal of low default rates. Ms. Kesson has given presentations at several conferences and schools on default prevention and provided training to school staff to help them better manage their default rates.
In June of 2015, she was promoted to her current position as Operations Manager to oversee the daily operations of the company. Her responsibilities include the staffing and training of the customer service call center, production goals for the support services team, and support for new product sales. Ms. Kesson has been voted Manager of the Year six times as well as receiving awards for Outstanding Contributions to the company. In March of 2016, Ms. Kesson completed CFEI (Certified Financial Education Instructor) training through the National Financial Educators Council. The CFEI coursework meets standards for the highest academic rigor while providing practical lessons that increase the impact of a trained financial educator.
Before working in the student loan industry, Ms. Kesson spent many years in customer service, retail management, and sales positions. Her strong background and experience in customer service along with her drive to help people is what she loves about being at Champion. She believes in Champion’s mission to help students and schools to be successful.
Born and raised in Connecticut, Ms. Kesson moved to Arizona sixteen years ago. She now resides in Mesa with her son Spencer, a student at ASU in the fall, and their canine companions, Barnum and Coraline.
John White joined Champion as Sales Manager in 2013 and has built many strong relationships within the industry.
He studied communications at Arizona State University to start a fast-paced career in sales. With more than eighteen years of sales experience, he has held high level sales positions at leading access control companies including PTI, Site Safe Security and CCS Connections—roles that provided him the expertise and high-level management skills required to oversee sales operations at Champion. Mr. White works hard to find the right solution for each school in order to meet the school’s goals and stay within budget. His optimism, enthusiasm, and positive outlook are contagious, which makes him a tremendous asset to the Champion team. Mr. White lives in the Phoenix area, and in his free time you will find him spending it with his family, playing golf, coaching his sons little league team or DJing local events.
TECHNICAL SERVICES MANAGER
Ms. White started at Champion in 2003 as a Loan Counselor, bringing her financial collections experience to help struggling students with repayment options for their student loans. From there, she expanded her knowledge to include Quality Assurance and Auditing. She left Champion briefly in 2008 to gain knowledge in fraud and technology. Upon her return to Champion in 2011, she combined her student loan and technology expertise to improve system performance and business procedures as an Application Systems Analyst. In 2017, Ms. White was promoted to Technical Services Manager, where she continues to enjoy enhancing the system to improve interactions with students and clients.
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Ms. White moved to Arizona in 1996. She now lives in Mesa with her husband Jeremy, son Logan (now in elementary school), and two pitbullsJaina and Kulu. She enjoys spending time with her family, watching movies, spending time with friends, and in kickboxing class.
MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
Ja-lene Clark has the heart and drive of an entrepreneur combined with the spirit of a teacher and learning style of a hands-on apprentice. She has served for over two decades as a publisher, developmental editor, writer, in marketing, graphic design, and web design (skilled in Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and WordPress) with a focus on self-help and self-improvement subjects.
From 2009 to January 2016, Mrs. Clark served as a graphic designer of marketing and sales materials, website developer and assisted Champion by performing publishing tasks on a consultant and freelance basis. In February 2016, she accepted a salaried position with Champion. She has since continued to develop marketing materials, writes, produces, and designs the graphics and web-based elements of online courses. Ms. Clark has developed and maintains five websites for Champion. Other responsibilities include writing, editing, and publishing press releases and white papers.
Ms. Clark works from her home in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, assisted by her two beloved canine companions, Rosie and Toby. She and her husband Tom, enjoy traveling, time with family, and the precious responsibility of being full-time caregivers to two of their grandchildren.
TRAINING AND EDUCATION MANAGER
In November 2017, CeCe Keeto joined Champion as the Training and Education Manager and was excited to share her knowledge with a new audience. At Champion, her focus is on working with high schools to deliver life skills and financial literacy classes to help educate and to empower their students into becoming Champions as they face real-world situations.
Ms. Keeto has touched many lives by serving in the higher education industry since 1988. She truly believes helping students is changing lives one student at a time. Her passion for helping students has only grown stronger with each year. Ms. Keeto received financial literacy training from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. She has contributed to the success of many schools, serving in roles ranging from Corporate Financial Aid Director to Campus Director. Ms. Keeto has held Accreditation Evaluator credentials for the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences and is a Certified Training Educator for the Nuts and Bolts Business Training Program.
Ms. Watt started at Champion in 2005 as Executive Assistant to the President and CEO. Her previous experience in the postsecondary education industry, along with continued education and training at Champion, allowed her to grow into the position of VP of Strategic Initiatives. In 2011 she made the tough decision to leave the workforce to experience being a stay at home mom while her children were still young. In 2018, Ms. Watt enthusiastically returned to Champion bringing new experience with her in the fields of health and wellness, K-12 education, and non-profit organizations. She believes in Champion’s mission to mentor, empower, train, and educate people. She currently wears ‘multiple hats’ within the Champion Companies, including executive assistant, project management, human resources, bookkeeping, and general office management responsibilities. Her positive outlook on life, along with her ‘can do’ and ‘whatever it takes’ attitude, greatly contribute to the Champion Management Team.
Ms. Watt is an Arizona Native and lives in the East Valley with her children. She is passionate about life-long learning through personal and professional development while helping others to realize their potential through their self-development. She volunteers her time often to pursue her passion. She enjoys spending time going on new adventures with her friends and family while experiencing new places, cultures, and people.