I am an alumni of First Tee of Pittsburgh. I am also currently a full-time coach with the role of Regional Manager for First Tee of Pittsburgh. I happen to also be the first girl from the Pittsburgh Chapter. I was fortunate to be accepted and attend the very first Life and Leadership Academy at K-State in 2000, putting me with the program for more than 20 years.
From participant to full time Coach, I’ve been able to see the organization grow and spread life and golf skills throughout many different communities and schools. Watching kids start to understand the game and use the life skills we teach in their everyday life, is so fulfilling and rewarding.
The First Tee program is very special to me, in more ways than just one. I‘ve had a lot of my first time experiences being part of The First Tee program. Before The First Tee, I had never been out of State alone… on a plane, or slept and ate on a real college campus. I remember looking around and having the feeling of worth, a new path that I could see clearly. The program truly gave me the skills needed to become a better young person, and a positive role model for my family and peers.
I believe in the program so much I’ve enrolled my only child Syri. Syri is a 10th grader that has a condition called Alopecia Totalis. It’s a condition that makes all the hair from your body fall out. Looking different can be challenging and overwhelming for any young person. The First Tee gave us the skills to understand that being or looking different is okay. I have always felt safe and felt like I have an open ear. The First Tee program gave us the confidence I needed to face the world, ready, and with our heads held high.
Recently I ran into one of my teachers at the Creative and Performing Arts High School. The look on his face was priceless. He gave me this long drawn out stare, with a long exhale. He couldn’t believe that I had done something positive with my life. The disbelief was a bit unnerving at first. Then he looked at me and said… ”You were one of the hardest kids, it was touch and go at the end and I didn’t know if you would graduate. I would have bet money, man … It feels good to see a kid like you make it. Good for you” I was that kid that would not change to gym clothes, or run a lap. I couldn’t shoot a jump shot to save my life, and climbing the rope….forget about it.
I was very nervous to be around people I hold so high in standards. This LALA Academy was not like I expected at all. I thought it would be something like Level 1 Coach Training. It was more like being backstage at a pop concert at its peak. I loved every bit of the work we put out building those relationships.
If I had one thing to say it would be:
NEVER COUNT YOURSELF OUT…. YOU JUST MIGHT SURPRISE YOU.
Submitted by Coach Rio Hawkins, Regional Manager for the East & West