February 22, 2016

A journey of big dreams sparked by visits to the learning center

As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Tiger Woods Learning Center, we reflect on the powerful stories of lives changed as a direct result of this incredible place. Jose Valdez’s story is one of overcoming adversity and discovering hope.

Growing up in a rough neighborhood in Anaheim, Jose struggled to see a future for himself and was on the verge of dropping out of high school. He was surrounded by negative influences within his circle of friends. 

“They were always making bad choices, but they were the only people I knew, the only people that I thought cared,” Jose said. 

That’s when the Tiger Woods Learning Center came into the picture.

Jose’s journey with the TWLC started with a hard-hat tour where local students got a sneak peek at the developing facility with Tiger Woods himself. Jose admittedly came for the free pizza, but little did he know it was the beginning of a transformation. Drawn to the stimulating classes and caring staff, Jose immersed himself in the TWLC and discovered the confidence and hope he had been searching for.

“The learning center was built for the community, but it has made an impact in my life. It’s not just a place for learning, but much more than that. It’s been a place for opportunities,” Jose said. 

He found people who cared about him.

“I had a voice, I was able to talk to them without hesitation, and they would listen; they would want to know who I was and my interests,” Jose said.

Jose Valdez walks with Tiger Woods during development of the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, California

When the learning center opened its doors, Jose enrolled in aerospace rocketry, where he learned to build and launch rockets. For the first time, Jose understood the connection between the physics being taught in school and how they applied to real-life scenarios. 

“I found a way that math and science came together to build this rocket, to find it’s altitude, it’s apogee. Then it all started to make sense to me,” Jose said. 

Two students launching a rocket

Jose looks at life differently now; he feels as though he can accomplish anything. 

“I always wanted to be something big, something big for my mom, for all of her struggle,” Jose said while speaking at a TWLC fundraising event that same year. “And now I know that I WILL become something big. Because I feel like superman: invincible. I feel like I can handle any rock thrown at me because I have the support of the center in every step that I take. It’s been an honor as well as a privilege to be a Tiger Woods Learning Center member.”

Want to hear more of Jose’s incredible story? Watch a special feature on Jose, produced by the Golf Channel.

Champions of the unexpected for 20 years.