December 20, 2016

A Celebration of Unexpected Champions

In our last and final flashback to our 20th anniversary event, “A Celebration of Unexpected Champions,” at the iconic New York Public Library, we hear from the Tiger Woods Foundation’s President and CEO Rick Singer. Singer took to the stage to remind guests of TWF’s 20-year journey, but also to share plans for the future.

Several months ago, we were discussing how to map out the evening and the subject of moderators came up. We talked about asking Charlie Rose to do double duty, maybe bringing in other friends of the foundation to handle the job. But since we are looking to feature all the great things TWF is doing today, we decided to ask a few of our TWF Scholars to help out — our Unexpected Champions. Why do we call them Unexpected Champions? We call them that because they show what happens when potential meets opportunity no matter your social circumstances. Some may be surprised by their success, but we’re not.  

Two years ago, when I joined the foundation, Tiger said we would change the world through our work. At the time, I thought it was just Tiger being Tiger. But from the beginning, 20 years ago, that was the vision of Tiger and Earl. Earl continues to influence all that we do, even 10 years after his passing. And Tida, Tiger’s mother, is here tonight and she continues to play an important role in all that we do. 

Changing the world. Is that really possible, or is it just a nice set of words? As I’ve learned over the past two years, yes, it is possible based on three very important things we know.

First, after-school programs like ours, which are project-based educational experiences, greatly improve standardized scores, self-confidence and positive behavior. Kids in high quality after-school programs are 30 percent more likely to avoid risky behaviors that can set their lives off-course, and negatively affect their communities. They have higher class attendance, lower course failures, higher graduation rates, and they are more likely to attend post-secondary school.

Second, we know that college grads are far more likely to participate in activities that improve society. They are more involved in their communities, they vote more, volunteer more and are more politically aware — all behaviors and activities that improve our communities. They are also more likely to have children who themselves become college grads, breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty that plague our nation.

And finally, from our experience, we also know that many grads return to their communities to give back or find other ways to impact the kinds of places they’re from, providing the youth there with positive role models and improving the lives of those in communities in need.

So much can change in a community when just one child succeeds. So let me introduce you to some of the kids, our Unexpected Champions, who are helping us change the world.

Edgar Perez started with us as a fifth-grade student in Anaheim and is an Earl Woods Scholar, now in his senior year at Reed College majoring in physics. He has been sought after to work in a variety of research positions on campus, most notably he’s had the opportunity to work at the Reed Research Reactor as a senior nuclear reactor operator. Edgar is currently applying for graduate work in physics as he completes his final year of undergraduate studies.

Sharon Don started with us in seventh grade and became very involved in our TGR Learning Lab programs. She developed a commercial in our video lab that was featured by TWF as one of our spots shown on TV during the Deutsche Bank Championship golf tournament. She went to Cal State, Fullerton and graduated in three years. Sharon is now following her dream, a dream born at the Learning Lab, as a business affairs coordinator for TBWA/Media Arts which handles advertising and marketing campaigns for Apple, among other clients.

Our Earl Woods Scholar Vina Vo is the child of Vietnamese immigrants and was raised by her grandmother. Driven and focused, Vina graduated from USC with a B.A. in business and a Master’s in urban planning. Currently based in San Francisco, Vina left a promising career as a senior consultant at Ernst & Young to pursue her passion for education. Now at the educational nonprofit Digital Promise, she works with superintendents of 73 school districts across the country connecting them with one another with the goal of helping them share and foster ideas around innovation and technology to better serve students. 

These are just some of our Learning Lab kids and Earl Woods Scholars that have gone on to impact their families and communities in such amazing and positive ways.

So, yes, Tiger, you were right. We are, indeed, changing the world through these terrific individuals, and now it’s time to dramatically improve our impact.

So how will we do that?

Through our daily work with kids in our flagship Anaheim Learning Lab or the six others on the East Coast, we have developed a project-based method of learning that does more than help kids understand STEM subjects. It helps them learn how to think, developing what’s known as a growth mindset, which is valuable to them no matter what they do in the future. We feel we have an obligation to share our methods with teachers and students as broadly as we can. So over the next five years, we will dramatically increase the number of kids we reach.

Just think of how each of the kids we reach through our new programs can impact their family, neighborhood and community. And we’re in discussions right now with major partners such as Discovery Education who can take us global.

Evenings like this will help us do just that. So thank you all for coming and for your generosity throughout the evening. You’re really helping us change the world.

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.