Seventy-Two Teens to Attend First Tee Game Changers Academy in Philadelphia

 APGA golfer and First Tee alumnus Marcus Byrd and diverse leaders from the sports industry to kick off the weeklong event facilitating critical conversations around issues of race and equality

PONTE VEDRA, Fla. (July 18, 2022) − First Tee, a youth development organization that teaches life skills and helps kids and teens build their strength of character through golf, will host the First Tee Game Changers Academy Honoring Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. in Philadelphia, July 18-22, 2023. Seventy-two teens from 51 First Tee chapters across the country have been selected for the five-day learning and empowerment academy where they will participate in conversations and activities designed to enlighten, inspire, encourage, and position them to be advocates for social justice.

The week will kick off with a ‘Critical Conversation’ hosted by RISE on Tuesday, July 18, featuring 8-year NFL veteran, Philadelphia native and member of the Baltimore Ravens Daryl Worley, First Tee – Greater Washington D.C. alumnus and professional golfer, Marcus Byrd, and Lodge Grass High School Head Basketball Coach Josh Stewart. Scarlen Martinez, the Sr. Director of Empowerment at RISE will moderate the panel about how sports lead to access and can help address societal inequalities. 

RISE, a national nonprofit and leader in the sports community championing social justice and working to improve race relations, will also facilitate engaging and interactive workshops throughout the week. The workshops will explore a multitude of topics that encourage personal growth and understanding of diversity concepts that foster positive change in the community.  The workshops will be paired with reflections led by our nationally trained First Tee coaches, team-building activities such as the Villanova Challenge Course, and golf outings at Walnut Lane Golf Club where they will continue to build relationships with other participants from around the country and learn from each other’s unique perspectives.

“We are proud to offer opportunities for our teens to hear, share and learn from diverse perspectives,” said Greg McLaughlin, First Tee CEO.  “In past years, we have seen our participants return to their communities inspired and motivated to be advocates for change, and we know it will be the same this year.”

This Academy is an evolution of First Tee’s longest-standing participant event. The Academy honors First Tee’s former CEO, Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., who led the organization from 2000 until his retirement in 2017. It’s one of several national opportunities provided by First Tee headquarters designed to inspire and encourage high school students on a deeper level as they progress through the program and toward higher education opportunities.  

The 72 teens attending the Academy can be viewed here.

Featured Participants: 

Ana Hunter, First Tee – Tennessee

  • 18-year-old rising college freshman boasting a 4.0 GPA  
  • Involved with First Tee for nine years and is currently a lead coach at the Memphis location.
  • Senior Representative for Hutchison High School’s Honor Council, member of Society of Women Engineers Next Club, and Hive mind eSports League.
  • Founded the nonprofit “Don’t Ovary Act” to provide her community with proper disposal methods of feminine products and educate about periods and period poverty.
  • Award winning Scholastic Poet.
  • Aspires to be a video game coder.

“From player to coach level at First Tee, I have had no choice but to step out of my safe havens and learn how to adapt. With my career aspirations being in video game development, a male-dominated field, introducing myself and exiting places of familiarity will become all but normality in my life. However, knowing how well-prepared I am because of First Tee gives me the confidence to thrive in my future endeavors.”

Tanvi Samayam, First Tee – Greater Trenton

  • 17-year-old rising senior boasting a 3.9 GPA.
  • Involved with First Tee for six years and volunteers as a coach.
  • Co-captain of her high school varsity golf team, a member of Medical Minds Club, South Asian Society, and Project Green.
  • Tanvi is a certified EMT.
  • Started a non-profit called Mpower Kids that works to empower and support kids around the world today for a better tomorrow.
  • Aspires to be an allergy specialist to help others that battle life-threatening food allergies.

“In order to be an allergy specialist, my goals include excelling in high school, attending a prominent college, and graduating from a well-known medical school. With a medical degree, I will be able to help others like me who have life-threatening food allergies.”  

Jake Zulueta, First Tee – Greater Charlotte

  • 16-year-old rising junior boasting a 4.0 GPA.
  • Involved with First Tee for seven years and is an active youth coach.
  • Member of the Weddington High School varsity golf team, DECA, and the Marine Corp Jr. ROTC program.
  • Recently awarded the MCJROTC Leader by Example award and participated in the United States Naval Academy STEM on DECK in August of 2022.
  • Jake is multi-lingual and speaks Greek, English, French, and is currently learning Arabic.
  • Aspires to follow in his grandparent’s footsteps and join the Navy to carry on their legacy.  

“By embracing diversity and proactively seeking to include all individuals, a leader can establish a more strong and healthier team or community, where everybody can flourish. Ensuring inclusivity should be a primary goal of every leader.”   

Matthew Stolte, First Tee – Minnesota

  • 17-year-old rising college freshman boasting a 4.69 GPA.
  • Involved with First Tee for 13 years and a junior coach for the last two where he helps with the Urban Ventures camps, the Parks and Recreation camps, and the special needs program.
  • He is his golf team captain and a black belt in Taekwondo.
  • He has previously participated in the 2021 First Tee Leadership Summit and 2022 First Tee Champions Challenge.
  • Aspires to attend the University of Minnesota honors program and earn a degree in Management Information Systems to become a software engineer.

“Since then [Leadership Summit] I’ve strengthened relationships and used my skills to influence younger golfers as a golf coach. I learned to be intentional, creating the life I want to live because it’s my responsibility. I’m grateful that I learned this lesson early and I’m excited to build on it to influence and connect with others throughout my journey.”