Construction of the range viewed as a catalyst for community change
A cross the country, many elementary-aged students returned to school this month. And for most, golf was the furthest thing from their mind. However, that’s not the case for students at Briscoe Elementary School in Fort Worth, Texas.
Through a partnership with The First Tee of Fort Worth and the Rainwater Foundation, an altruistic organization aimed at bettering the lives of individuals around the country, and the Fort Worth Independent School District is building a golf range on a 10-acre space located at Briscoe Elementary.
“The theory is to bring as much of the golf course to where the students are as possible,” says Brian Harris, director of development and PR for The First Tee of Fort Worth. “We will be able to work with students during school as a part of their physical education classes, after school as part of our outreach initiative, and during weekends and summers. These students will have access to the full life skills experience that will deliver year-round results.”
It is hoped that the construction of this range and the programs that come along with it will have a reverberating impact for years to come. The Morningside Community of Fort Worth – where the school is located – has approximately 8,000 residents (including 4,000 children) who live within a 2.2 square mile radius. Of the 4,000 elementary and middle school students in Morningside, 86.7 percent are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and 61 percent of students are considered at-risk. In 2015, the Fort Worth Police Department reported approximately 764 crimes within that two square mile radius, 63 percent of which were property crimes and 19 percent were crimes against persons. Change is needed, and golf could be a conduit for that change.
“The project will help thousands of young people build bridges to successful futures,” says Kevin Long, executive director of The First Tee of Fort Worth. “I’m honored that our powerful tools for character development will be accessible in the neighborhood where children live and attend school at the Briscoe facility.”
The range will not only serve the five schools within the Morningside community, but will also be open to other Fort Worth schools, as well as local youth community agencies, primarily serving the southeast portion of Fort Worth. The initial budget (handled by The First Tee of Fort Worth) for construction and to run the program in its first year is $225,000, which is covered 100 percent by The Rainwater Foundation. Followup funding will come from The Rainwater Foundation, as well as other sources to continue the project into the future. Construction began in August with the clearing of the ground. Depending on weather, the goal is to have the facility completed and open in early October of this year.
The Rainwater Foundation has a community initiative called the Morningside Children’s Partnership, a “cradle to career” effort. According to its website, the Rainwater Charitable Foundation focuses on helping children in the United States; specifically, those with the greatest needs. The group seeks out successful programs around the country with proven, measurable success, strong leadership and the ability to scale for greater impact. What drew them to this project is that it will involve more than learning how to properly hit a 7-iron or replace a divot. It is aimed at changing the life paths of children in a school system and local community that has its share of challenges.
The land that The First Tee facility is being built upon is owned by the Fort Worth Independent School District and is being made available through an annual lease of $1. The District is also covering the cost of utility relocation and donating a portable building that will have space for indoor programming. In addition, the District will cover moving costs and placement costs for that building, as well as ongoing utility overhead.
Dr. Kent P. Scribner, Superintendent of the Fort Worth ISD, believes his students will benefit greatly from the project. “We are excited to team up with The First Tee program for our schools because it is about much more than just the sport of golf. Our students will learn life skills and the program’s core values that will only serve to help them as they prepare for success in college, career and community leadership. We owe a debt of gratitude to The First Tee and the Rainwater Foundation for partnering with us to offer students an opportunity to grow beyond the classroom.”
Fort Worth District 4 Board of Education trustee TA Sims opined that having The First Tee facility at Briscoe Elementary School is “beyond innovative.” He added, “The Briscoe project actually provides a great opportunity to bring golf to our youth with ease. To promote this opportunity for our youth to become fit, and continue their education via golf is an exceptional addition to our community.”
Harris explained that through The First Tee’s blanket policy of “everyone participates regardless of their ability to pay, and our equipment donation program will truly provide an opportunity for every child in the Morningside community to participate.” He added, “We have seen great support from local community leaders and many families in the area. This project is providing access to a sport that has traditionally been inaccessible to students and parents living in this community.” Children as young as seven can be involved in The First Tee program.
The First Tee of Fort Worth has received national recognition by earning the ACE designation (highest network level) multiple times, and consistently ranks in the top three of over 200 chapters of The First Tee worldwide.