For this episode of Community Conversations, we spoke with Allen Smith of The First Tee of Prince William County – a program that provides enrichment camps and golfing opportunities for Prince William children.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your program.
A: Well the First Tee is a national program that’s designed to teach hopefully a lot of core values, and hopefully honesty, integrity, respect, courtesy – all of the things we want our young people to learn as they grow up. Young adults.
Q: And what kind of kids does your program serve? Is there a certain age group – boys or girls? Is it a mix?
A: We actually serve all kids in Prince William County, and they’re from ages seven to 18. And it’s boys, girls, athletes, non-athletes. The great thing about our program is that it’s open to everyone.
Q: And how would they sign up for your program?
A: They can just look online at our website, which his TFTPWC.com. And just look under ‘register’ and every class we have for the entire year is already listed there.
Q: And what kind of skills – and is there anything else that the kids can learn from your program? Do you have leadership programs, is it just about golf? Tell me a little bit more about that.
A: Well the great thing about the program is that golf is just the platform. We use that to get kids out there and to get them moving, and hopefully socializing. But the whole premise is to teach them a lot of values that they can use in every day life – how to work better with their families at home, how to interact with their brothers and sisters. How to hopefully, maybe do a better job in their school work. Anything we can do to help them be a more well-round person – and then they take that, and the longer they stay with the program, The First Tee actually has some wonderful academies, scholarships, even playing opportunities. They play in Cannon Hand with a senior tour member at Pebble Beach. So the opportunities, actually, the longer they stay in are amazing.
Q: And you say it’s for all the kids in Prince William. So there’s really no level of income for the family – whether you’re poor or you’re well off. So you’re able to mix different – kids from different backgrounds.
A: Absolutely, all backgrounds. And they don’t even need equipment. I have equipment for every child that comes in – no matter how big or small. I mean if they have a nice set they can bring it, if they don’t, I provide them with everything. So they can walk in, and all they need is maybe a water bottle to stay hydrated, and they’re good to go.
Q: You say there are some scholarship opportunities too with your program.
A: Some of the scholarships are – they’re leadership academies and scholarships that you can travel around the country, sponsorships of like Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola. And all they need to do is – it’s almost like a resume. You put down a little something about you and why you feel that you would be a good person for the recipient of that opportunity. And coaches like myself, we actually go through, and we grade them. And we give them point values, and nationally about 20 or so are picked. There’s one coming up that’s a leadership academy where 100 kids get picked – up in Michigan for an entire week. Free room and board – everything’s all taken care of.
Q: Do you play at any particular golf courses or do you use golf courses all throughout the county?
A: We use all of the Prince William County golf courses as our home bases, which are Lake Ridge, Forest Green, Prince William, and General’s Ridge. Those are our four main golf courses when we try to move things around, so that way every person in the West and the East side has the chance to play somewhere.
Q: You’ve got your 15-year anniversary coming up.
A: Yes, in 2017. This is our 15th anniversary. We started in 2002 and we were one of the initial properties across the country for The First Tee. So some of the people in Prince William County that started that program are actually still with Prince William County. So they’re proud of the fact that they brought in a good program and that it’s still here and active.
Q: And you have an event coming up. Why don’t you tell us a bit about your event?
A: Yes, June 30 at Forest Greens golf course. We’re holding our annual golf tournament and that’s to benefit the kids of Prince William County and all proceeds go to – whether that’s new equipment, maybe some scholarship opportunities that we have, and we just try to create any kind of awareness for Prince William County, to let them know this is a great way to help kids in our community.
Q: Can people volunteer for your program?
A: Yes they can. That’s probably one of the biggest areas where we can use some help. The last couple of years we have grown dramatically – and the good news is we’ve grown. The bad news is we’ve grown so much we could really use a little help. So volunteers are critical to our success, and the kid’s future. And you don’t even need to have a golf background. A lot of our best volunteers aren’t even golfers – they just like to give back to the community – and maybe share their business opportunities, maybe a business that they’re in, to try to tell people – young people – ‘Keep working hard. Get good grades. Maybe you can own your own business. Or maybe you could come work for me when you get a driver’s license, and get older.’ So we do an awful lot of mentoring with our volunteers, which is just wonderful to see.
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