Coogs You Can Count On: With School Back on, Charity’s Founders Suit Up to Help Kids in Need

James Hong and Jaron K. Barganier (photo by Stephanie De Alba)

WHEN TWO FORMER UH football players put their helmets together to form a plan to impact under-privileged youth through sports, education and nutrition programs, neither expected to be where they are today. Jaron K. Barganier and James Hong are co-founders of Be A Champion, Inc., a nonprofit organization that aims to set children on a path to success. Today, Texas students are returning to the classrooms, and with House Bill 4545 in effect, Be A Champion staff are once again suiting up to keep students fed and education institutions supported.


Founded in 2001, Be A Champion initially focused on after-school sports programs. Eventually, the meal program was introduced which helped expand the organization's reach even further. "James and I started the meals program from the ground up," Barganier explains. "We partnered with a couple of schools and we would roll up our sleeves to make sandwiches and pack lunch bags to hand out. We were a small team, but knew we wanted to make a big impact."

Now Be A Champion partners with the Texas Department of Agriculture and its food vendor, Pepsico Food For Good, to supply meals to students in Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley. "We didn't plan to expand outside of Houston, but we saw a need and knew we had to grow this program," Hong adds. "In the summer of 2020, Be A Champion was able to serve just over 4.1 million youth all over the state of Texas."

The nonprofit has a dedicated team with boots on the ground, providing job opportunities to communities and meal security to families in need. "During the school year, we provide supper meals, milk, and snacks for kids who may face food insecurity at home," Barganier says. "Meal types change slightly in the summer months, but it's a year-round program that we provide to the public, no questions asked."

Be A Champion, Inc. staff at distribution site

Jaron Barganier working with students

Be A Champion is expanding its education services to provide support to schools in need of tutors to meet the requirements under House Bill 4545. "The new statute requires schools to provide tutors for students who failed any portion of the STAAR Test last school year," Hong explains. "We partner with schools in need of these tutorial services to provide highly skilled professionals to work with students and get them back on track towards academic success. We encourage school districts to contact us if they are in need of support."

The dynamic duo have worked nonstop for two decades on this blueprint on how to serve communities intentionally. "We always knew we had to grow our programs to help fulfill the growing needs of our community, but we never imagined the growth to happen in a relatively short period of time," Hong says. "Our motto is 'endless service to our community' and that's what guides us each and every day," Barganier adds. "As long as there is a need, Be A Champion will answer the call."

Learn more about Be A Champion, Inc. at https://bachamp.org

People + Places

Mara Haaksman, James Inglis, Kam Franklin, Ryan Ramirez

SILVER STREET STUDIOS has arguably never been so silver, as hundreds of guests (many clad in “space-chic” attire) turned out to celebrate the launch of The Infinite, an outer-space-themed multi-sensory installation that landed in H-Town in late December.

Keep Reading Show less
People + Places

THIS WEEK'S FLURRY of restaurant-industry news continues today with the announcement that chef Austin Waiter — who has just ended a seven-year stint at Tony’s, per an announcement yesterday about changes afoot at the storied fine-dining stalwart — is stepping into a new role at The Marigold Club, a forthcoming venture just off Montrose’s restaurant row.

Keep Reading Show less