About the Academy

  • Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation, Inc. Statement of Mission

    The Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation was created to support Chi Chi Rodriguez’s vision of helping at-risk youth achieve academic, social, and economic success by remaining engaged in their education and acquiring the practical skills to excel at the “game of life.” The Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation is the principal operator of the educational programs: The Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy and The First Tee of Clearwater.

    Our programs are grounded in the human fundamental needs of love and respect. We work to build confidence, instill discipline and provide positive and engaging educational experiences. A unique forum was chosen to achieve our goal – the golf course. Golf is frequently considered the game of successful people – people who would be excellent role models for Chi Chi’s Kids. Golf also requires self-control, responsibility and respect for others. Outstanding athletic ability, size and dexterity are not necessary to participate. Success for Chi Chi’s Kids had to be through (as Chi Chi said), “love, understanding, compassion, and self-esteem.” Although Chi Chi was raised in a poor family, his family was rich in all of those important qualities.

    The target group for Academy’s activities is children ranging in ages from 5 to 17. We currently serve more than 2,200 children in our programs. Ninety five (95) 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, teachers and principals. Students mostly live north of Ulmerton Road to Tarpon Springs.

    To be accepted into the program, the children 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requirements: (1) have poor grades; (2) perform below state expectations on standardized testing (3) be socially withdrawn; (3) have poor school attendance; (4) from a single parent home; (5) on some form of government assistance.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 mini-school for fourth through eighth grade students who are 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 Golf Club and the Youth Foundation. While learning about various jobs, the children 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.

    Every good teacher tries to simulate a real world environment in their classroom and that's what we've created here. The focus of the school is to help at-risk children (discouraged, unmotivated learners who may have low self-esteem or come from stressful family conditions). This scenario typically describes a model for drop-out potential.

    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 and 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.

    The First Tee of Clearwater – Junior Golf Program Life Skills and Core Values through Golf

    The First Tee of Clearwater is one of three Tampa Bay area chapters and serves over 2,000 participants. Life Skills Experience programs are offered in five local elementary schools, as well as at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club, Chi Chi Golf & Family Sports Complex and Dunedin Stirling Links.

    The First Tee programs are designed around teaching young people the game of golf, as well as helping them understand and ultimately develop The First Tee Nine Core Values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. The curriculum was developed by experts in the field of positive youth development through sports and is delivered by caring adults (coaches) who have been formally trained by The First Tee.

    At The First Tee, golf and life lessons are seamlessly incorporated into each experience. In addition to covering fundamentals of the golf swing and the game, a sample of life skills lessons include:

    • Communication: How to make a proper introduction when meeting someone new and how to effectively communicate with others.
    • Self-Management: Techniques for managing thoughts and emotions.
    • Goal Setting: Setting attainable goals to reach desired dreams.
    • Overcoming Challenges: Strategies to adapt, manage and overcome challenges.

    * In a past independent research study of The First Tee nationally, 73% of young people at participating chapters reported high confidence in their ability to do well academically.

    Foundation Highlights:
    • 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
    • 2016 Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce Medium Non-Profit of the Year
    • 2016 & 2015 Tampa Bay Business Journal Education Non-Profit of the Year Finalist
    • 2015 Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit 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.