First Tee – Greater Charleston intentionally promotes diversity at all levels of the organization. Its efforts were recognized as one of two chapters that received First Tee’s national award: the 2022 Barbara A. Douglas and Dr. William J. Powell Diversity Award presented by The Toro Company. Toro, which has supported First Tee for 25 years, donated $5,000 to both winning chapters: First Tee – Greater Charleston and First Tee – Delaware.
Fifty percent of full-time staff members and all seasonal workers at First Tee – Greater Charleston come from diverse backgrounds, helping to ensure every participant see themself represented in their coaches and mentors. Two-thirds of the chapter’s partner schools are Title I institutions, and First Tee – Greater Charleston works with a dozen organizations that support underserved populations, including Charleston Promise Neighborhood and the Lowcountry Autism Foundation.
“We partner with each of these groups to provide free program access and transportation. Our goal of each school and community partnership is to provide equitable access and exposure for all kids to experience the heart of First Tee’s golf and life skills education,” said executive director Bucky Dudley.
And, while chapters across the First Tee network are working to build Game Changers, First Tee – Greater Charleston has created exciting new programming to support this mission. Its Game Changers Immersion Program provides significant support – from homework help and field trips to classroom lessons and golf practice – for cohorts of underserved kids as they progress through middle and high school.
“We want to instill in the kids that they have the confidence to do anything,” said coach Lerone Johnson. “Confidence is big because in life, you’re going to be faced with challenges, and you have to have enough confidence in yourself, as well as perseverance, to persevere through.”
Toro also honored First Tee – Delaware last year for its commitment to diversity. “Advancing diversity is a hallmark for our 27 years and our legacy,” said executive director Bob Norris.
Program director and First Tee national trainer Charma Bell has worked to recruit diverse coaches to the chapter. Now six of its seven recognized coaches are women or people of color. The chapter serves kids at 36 Title I elementary and charter schools and works with seven Boys & Girls Clubs across the state.
First Tee – Delaware was awarded an LPGA/Renee Powell Grant in 2021, which allowed the chapter to host a Girls Golf Experience for new players. More than 30 girls of color attended the event in March of 2022.
Across the First Tee network, other chapters are working to reach diverse communities with their life skills programming. Learn more about how The Toro Company is supporting this mission.