July 29, 2014

It’s not a checkbook organization

“I was raised in a tough neighborhood where my mother was afraid to let me go out and play in the playground, where drugs and violence were visible on almost every street block,” Lenny Baez said. Lenny is an incoming sophomore at San Jose State and a Tiger Woods Foundation scholar in the Earl Woods Scholarship Program. He spoke Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship’s Media Day, as the foundation is the main beneficiary of the tournament. Read Lenny’s speech below and see why Tiger Woods said, “When you become part of the Earl Woods Scholarship [Program] and you become part of the Tiger Woods Foundation, you’re part of a family.”

LENNY GUERRERO-BAEZ: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Lenny Guerrero-Baez. I am an Earl Woods Scholar and part of the Tiger Woods Foundation and currently finished my first year at San Jose State University. I am the youngest of two in my family and raised in South Boston. Both of my parents are originally from the Dominican Republic and only made it up to their first or second year of high school, mostly because they had to start working to support their families. Specifically my dad stopped attending school at the age of 14 after his mother died of leukemia to help support his brothers and sisters. This strong work ethic carried on to me and I have been able to add that aspect to every part of my life.

I am also an avid martial artist and I have been practicing martial arts for over five years. It has become a big part of my life. In December of 2008 my father was attacked and beaten within an inch of his life. With the fear of that possibly happening to me, we searched for a martial arts school for me to learn how to defend myself. We were lucky to find one three blocks from my home. What started out to be just pure self defense turned into my passion, my life. I even have a dream of being part of the 2020 Olympic Judo Team. I learned so much from my time there, how to respect people and to respect myself. I learned to never give up and to give every task I do 100% of my effort. These are lessons that I still use in my life every day.

Like any other person I have had my fair share of difficulties and challenges. I was raised in a tough neighborhood where my mother was afraid to let me go out and play in the playground, where drugs and violence were visible on almost every street block. My life in school up until high school was pretty tough because I experienced obesity as a child. It wasn’t until high school that I eventually gained the confidence to stand up for myself. My grades suffered throughout the years, mostly due to being a teenager. I had a change of heart and decided grades were important because it finally started to kick in that if I didn’t do my best in high school I would not go anywhere in life. This was constantly drilled into my head by my older sister, family and instructors who all wanted the best for me. Thankfully for me I had great people who kept my head straight and made sure my mind was on the bigger prize. With their help I finally got my grades under control after my sophomore year and graduated with a 3.9 GPA, which was the highest male GPA in my graduating class.

The Tiger Woods Foundation entered my life one day during my lunch break at school. I was in my guidance counselor’s office asking for help with how I was going to pay for my dream school. God bless her soul because I was in her office every day for help and she was always willing to give it. She directed me to a binder full of scholarships available. First one on the top of the list was the application for the Earl Woods Scholarship Program. At the moment it was just one of many scholarships I was applying for in hopes of finding funds for my dream school. I filled out the application and one afternoon in June after coming home from school I got a call from the Tiger Woods Foundation, to inform me that I had been chosen to be an Earl Woods Scholar. In excitement I jumped around so much I knocked over my desk lamp.

It really did not hit me how big of a role the Earl Woods Scholarship Program would have in my life. It kicked in after our induction banquet where I met the other scholars and learned more about the program. The program paired me with a great mentor in Rashad Cope, who has supported me throughout college and this experience. That’s what I really love about this foundation. It is not a “check book organization” as in they give you the check and send you on your way. They are there for the long run and always have what is best for you in mind. A great example of this for me was our first retreat for the freshmen, which was a summer workshop. In just three days, myself and a group of 16 other teenagers became a family. At the end we were all in tears when we had to leave each other. I realized that I am not the only one with a back story; I am not the only one who has dreams. I realized the reason we got so close is because we all understood each other, and something like that does not happen on an average day. This group of 16 teenagers along with the staff and my mentor became my Tiger Woods Foundation family.

I believe we all grow a little day by day, it just depends if it is a big change or a small change which makes the difference. Thanks to the scholarship program I was able to grow more as an adult. From learning how to email a colleague to greeting professional individuals, to building my resume and utilizing the resources that are available to me, thanks to the Earl Woods Scholarship Program and thanks to this family I am taking the right steps toward becoming an adult and achieving my dreams.