About the Academy
Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation, Inc. Statement of Mission
Mission: to educate students in a public-private partnership and improve their academic performance, self-esteem, and character using the golf course as a living classroom.
The Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation is the principal operator of two educational programs: the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy and First Tee – Clearwater, as well as two public businesses: the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club and Chi Chi Rodriguez Driving Range.
The target group for Academy’s activities is children ranging in ages from 5 to 17. We currently serve more than 3,600 children in our programs. Up to ninety (90) of those are students that attend the Chi Chi Academy, a privately supported public school in partnership with the Pinellas County School Board for students who have been identified as at risk of dropping out of school.
Underperforming student candidates are typically identified and referred to the Academy by Pinellas County School District guidance counselors. Students mostly live north of Ulmerton Road in Largo to Tarpon Springs.
To be accepted into the program, a child must meet two or more of the following requirements: (1) have poor grades; (2) perform below state expectations on standardized testing; (3) be socially withdrawn; (4) have poor school attendance; (5) from a single parent home; (6) on some form of government assistance.
The Foundation uses a holistic approach in its programs. Emphasis is placed on homework assistance, tutoring, social skills, core values, personal grooming, business skills, retail, art, landscaping, and golf. Golf was chosen as a key ingredient for the program because it does not require extraordinary size, speed, or strength to achieve success. The sport does, however, require consistent personal discipline, concentration, honesty, motivation and tenacity. These teachable traits plus exposure to role models of successful adult golfers made golf a natural choice.
The Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy – Public Partnership School Preparing Students for Success in the Game of Life
The Public Private Partnership School known as Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy is a voluntary school for fourth through eighth grade students not achieving at their grade level, have low self-esteem or have difficulty adjusting to a larger academic environment. Students learn through interactive experiences in the fields of management, marketing, retail sales, landscaping, agronomy and various other real-world business environments.
Through the school's “Shadow Program”, students, on a rotating basis, get to work with an adult in every department of the Youth Foundation, including the Golf Club and Driving Range businesses. While learning about various jobs, students see how basic educational skills like math and reading are used on an everyday basis in jobs. The teachers verify that students are much more enthusiastic when they see how skills they learn in the classroom are used outside the classroom, in the real world. The Shadow Program also reinforces social skills, which are an integral part of our educational setting.
The Pinellas County School system provides the teachers, the teacher assistants, support staff, student services and technology and the Foundation provides the campus facility, golf education and equipment, as well as classroom enrichment materials. The golf club delivers the real-life learning experience.
"We maximize the resources that the students would receive at traditional schools and provide them with additional support. The students have a much greater opportunity to succeed because of that support,” according to our Chairman of the Board, Tom James.
The small school atmosphere, individualized attention, counseling, availability of student services and specialized instructional components taught by the Pinellas County certified teachers foster a desire in Chi Chi's Kids to succeed in school and life.
First Tee - Clearwater – Junior Golf Program Building Game Changers
First Tee - Clearwater is one of three Tampa Bay area chapters and serves over 3,600 participants. Life Skills Experience programs are offered in seven local elementary schools, as well as at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club and Chi Chi Rodriguez Driving Range.
At First Tee – Clearwater, we’re Building Game Changers by empowering kids and teens to be the best version of themselves.
By seamlessly integrating the game of golf with character-building, we create learning experiences that help kids uncover their inner strength, self-confidence, and resilience that they can carry to everything they do.
Our trained coaches not only provide an introduction to junior golf and an opportunity to enhance golf skills, but they also create a safe, supportive, and empowering environment to help your child prepare for life ahead, including friendships, school, college and even their careers.
Through our program, kids will learn skills that stay with them for life:
- Understanding and managing emotions
- Resolving conflicts
- Setting up step-by-step goals
- Planning for the future
- Appreciating diversity
- Golf fundamentals and advanced techniques
- 2021 Tampa Bay Business Journal One Tampa Bay Awards Nonprofit Honoree
- 2020 Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit of the Year
- 2019 Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce Upper Tampa Bay Cup Award
- 2017 National Golf Course Owners Association Course of the Year Finalist
- 2017 Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce Medium Business of the Year
What Makes Chi Chi’s Programs Unique?
The most unique feature about the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy and its programs is the land they live on. The 170 acre campus, comprised of a public golf course and driving range, serves as a living classroom for the students to increase their knowledge of the world.
Golf: Students learn core values and life lessons seamlessly through golf with The First Tee of Clearwater curriculum.
Native Bird Boxes: In October 2014, students along with volunteers and Native Bird Boxes owner Brian Beckner, built 22 bird boxes to place on the golf club’s 170 acres. The different birds the boxes were built for include blue birds, flying squirrels, screech owls and wood peckers. Throughout the year, students go on the course to help monitor the boxes as a part of their science curriculum.
Horticulture: Students maintain gardens on campus with a volunteer who works with each class on growing vegetables that the students can later pick and eat.
Shadow Program: Students get to spend time with adults in every department of the Golf Club and Foundation. While learning about the various jobs, the children see how basic educational skills like math and reading are used on an everyday basis.