Flashback to October 1, 2005, when the Tiger Woods Learning Center was a shell of its future glory. Encompassed by dirt and plaster, no one could have truly imagined the incredible opportunity for change housed within its walls. No one could have accurately predicted the impact this innovative space would have on minority, impoverished and first-generation college hopefuls (nearly 150,000 students served and 35,000 hours of STEM curriculum to date!).
But one man had a vision of incredible potential. It was a Saturday, and Tiger Woods wanted to see how his vision was taking shape. He also wanted to know what the local kids thought of it. So, a dozen students from nearby high schools gathered for a tour of the nearly completed structure--having no idea the world's most famous golfer was about to join them--and were shocked into either silence or elation when Tiger walked through the door of this building that was once just a blueprint in his mind.
During the month prior, TWLC staff had worked with students on a career mentoring program and garnered feedback on the center's plans. The staff had also collaborated with local educators to develop a pilot program, consisting of six-week after-school programs for older students and month-long day programs for elementary students. That day's hard hat tour offered these high school students an opportunity to explore the center's progress and provide input on content they themselves would like to see in the after-school program.
It proved to be a fateful day for one particular student, Jose Valdez, a junior at Savannah high school who was struggling both at school and at home. His intent was to attend the tour for the free pizza that would follow, but Jose began chatting with Tiger and as they wound their way through the future classrooms, Jose's instructors were stunned that this normally isolated young man was opening up.
From there, Jose became involved in the pilot program and attended the TWLC regularly. After graduating, he even went on to work at the TWLC while attending college. From there, Tiger went on to prepare for that evening's fundraiser to support his learning center, beaming with pride.
Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.