TGR Foundation impact felt at The Genesis Invitational, far beyond
February 12, 2020
By Jamie Handy, PGATOUR.COM
- February 12, 2020
- Tiger Woods with Jin and Lynne Jun from the TGR Learning Lab ahead of The Genesis Invitational. (PGA TOUR)
College wasn’t easy for Earl Woods Scholar Trent Casillas when he first started at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California.
“I went from a 4.2 GPA in high school to a 2.6 GPA after the first quarter. I failed a course my second year of college and I was close to quitting,” said Casillas.
As a first-generation college student, there were obstacles to achieving a goal he had set for himself, in addition to setting a precedent in his family to be the first to graduate with a degree. As an engineering student, Casillas “had a strong desire to help communities by designing and implementing safe civil infrastructure.” From understanding the ins and outs of college, taking 16 to 17 units a quarter and as a participant in the Cal Poly American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter steel bridge team, Casillas took on great responsibility as a student.
Casillas’ success as an undergrad led him near the finish line of graduation – until he was involved in a hit-and-run vehicle accident. The recovery followed him into his last quarter and added more weight on his shoulders as he dealt with physical therapy on top of his studies. For Casillas, he knew he had a dream and he did not let his circumstances shift his plan to graduate on time. Although his undergraduate experience was challenging, Casillas continued to succeed with the support from his friends, family and mentor, Aaron Bell. In 2013, he walked across a stage and received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering.
Casillas went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and became the first Earl Woods Scholar to become licensed through an ABET certified engineering program. He currently works as a freelance data professional.
Through TGR Foundation and the Earl Woods Scholar Program, students have the support to further their passions and desires through an education in ways that may not otherwise be attainable. The values of TGR Foundation are exemplified through students like Casillas – passion, owning and holding oneself accountable, creating synergy, driving change and embracing diversity. With the Earl Woods Scholar Program and mentors like Aaron Bell who support students through college graduation and beyond, TGR Foundation has one of the highest college graduation rates among scholarship programs in the U.S. at 98 percent.
TGR Foundation, launched in 1996, has impacted more than one million students and continues to empower communities through education.
Similar to Casillas, the Earl Woods Scholar Program has encouraged and assisted other passionate students, like Quyen Nguyen. Nguyen was born in Vietnam and immigrated to California when she was 13. She has two older brothers – neither of whom completed their secondary education – which set her up to be the first of her siblings to graduate college.
As a recipient of the scholarship from the Earl Woods Scholar Program, Nguyen earned her degree in Global Business from the University of Redlands. She now works as a Marketing Consultant for Wyndham Destinations.
“The biggest goal I’ve set in my life is to be successful so I can take good care of my parents in the future,” Nguyen said. “To be able to give them a house and give them a happy life without worriment about working hard and paying off the debts is definitely what I wish to accomplish later on.”
Even though TGR Foundation has impacted more than 240 Earl Woods Scholars, their education and support begins far before their freshman year of college.
In 2006, the foundation created the TGR Learning Lab. The 35,000-square-foot campus opens its doors to fifth to 12th graders and their classroom teachers across Southern California and delivers hands-on STEM learning to serve more than 5,000 kids annually. The lab is versatile in the subjects that are taught, and children are able to partake in project-based lessons with dynamic learning facilitators who encourage students to learn through interaction and engagement. The lab also opens itself to undeserved middle and high school students to help build the confidence they need to succeed in academia and in life.
This week, at The Genesis Invitational, two participants from the TGR Learning Lab golf program had the opportunity to take that confidence outside of the classroom.
Korean students, and siblings, Jin and Lynne Jun were chosen to have a VIP experience at The Genesis Invitational. The two began the day with a tour of the clubhouse at The Riviera Country Club to learn the history of the tournament. After their tour, Jin and Lynne were both gifted pin flags and had the opportunity to go out to the driving range and meet PGA TOUR players and receive autographs. The siblings were then escorted to visit the media center to listen to Tiger Woods’ press conference and hear from TGR Foundation founder and tournament host. As the day continued on, the two headed out to the course to watch more players come through during their practice round.
To Jin and Lynne’s surprise, Sungjae Im – the 2019 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, from Jeju Island, South Korea – came by and met the siblings. Sungjae gave the two an inside-the-ropes experience, complete with the chance to play a hole together.
“It was amazing,” said Jin. “I don’t have any other words to say. I am still in shock.”
“It was really surreal,” added Lynne.
After their meet and greet, Jin and Lynne grabbed some lunch and enjoyed the rest of the day on the course. The siblings reflected on the positive impact of both the TGR Learning Lab and Sungjae that day.
Over the 20 years that the tournament has had a presence in LA, there have been countless lives impacted by TGR Foundation. Whether it was through the Earl Woods Scholar Program or the TGR Learning Lab and its award-winning STEM curricula, many have been aligned with the foundation’s mission to “empower students to pursue their passions through education.”
“Our purpose is to equip kids with a solid education and the mindset to persevere,” Tiger Woods has said on behalf of TGR Foundation. “We are quietly impacting an entire generation for the better.”
Casillas, Nguyen and the Jun siblings would surely agree.