When Marcus Edwards enrolled at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School on Capitol Hill, he had little, if any, focus beyond high school. There was a vague idea of a career in law enforcement, but no real route to get there after graduation.
But in the fall of 2010, the school underwent a change.
In moved a campus of the Tiger Woods Learning Center — a name that invokes golf, but really has nothing to do with it. Edwards, a sophomore at the time, had a new door to open.
“In all honesty, when I first went to the Tiger Woods Learning Center, college was not on my mind,” he said. “That’s where I learned that I wanted to pursue higher education so I could better myself in my career.”
There is no untangling the relationship between Woods and golf, because neither would be the same without the other.
Similarly, this week’s AT&T National at Congressional Country Club is built on Woods’s name, even as he is sitting out the tournament with a left elbow strain.
But Woods’s foundation, established in 1997 — the same year he won the first of his 14 major championships — has a wholly different mission, one Edwards and fellow Chavez student Elmu Sadalah, both 18, came to Congressional to promote during the tournament. A dozen years ago, Woods decided golf wasn’t where he wanted to put his charitable efforts, so long before he became a father himself, he shifted his foundation’s focus to the education of other people’s kids.
That led, at first, to the development of his initial learning center in his native Orange County, Calif. When he helped bring the AT&T National to the Washington region in 2007, it came with a pledge to provide the same sort of opportunity to kids from the District. The two campuses of the learning center here — one on Capitol Hill, the other at the Chavez school’s Parkside campus in Ward 7 — have been open for three years, serving 3,000 kids in after-school programs and in-school classes designed not around golf, but on science, technology, engineering and math.
“It’s nice to finally get into the cycle where you’re able to see the results of that,” said Greg McLaughlin, who serves both as the CEO of the Tiger Woods Foundation and the AT&T National’s tournament director. “Each and every one of the kids that we’re helping, they’ve all got their own stories. That’s the great part, because then you can understand the impact that we’ve had.”
Woods isn’t a constant presence at the centers, which have also opened campuses in Philadelphia and Stuart, Fla. But he is involved enough that when he saw Edwards Wednesday at the AT&T National, he embraced him, saying, “Marcus! What’s up, big boy?”
“The way Tiger acts, and the foundation itself, the comparison is very simple,” said Sadalah, who will be a senior at Chavez in the fall. “They’re both down to earth. You can talk to Tiger juts the way you can talk to the people from the Tiger Woods Learning Center. You can talk to them about everything. They’re willing to help you. It’s like a community, a family.”
Edwards, who graduated in the spring, and Sadalah worked this week at one of the Tiger Woods Foundation’s booths at the course, spending time with learning center teachers Eric Moore and Thomas Hailu trying to spread the word about Woods’s work, not his golf. Both boys, who live in Northeast, studied video production, and both now have higher education in mind. Edwards received a full scholarship to Kentucky State, where he’ll start this fall, and Sadalah, who was born in Sierra Leone, is considering the University of Florida, Penn State and New York University after graduation next spring.
“As a freshman, I always had a set view of things and how things should be and should not be,” Sadalah said. “But the Tiger Woods Learning Center helped open my perspectives, and I learned how to connect things together.”
At Congressional, they got to connect Woods back to golf. They shadowed him around the grounds, sat in on his press conference, hung out with him at opening ceremonies.
“We’re trying to give them an opportunity, but it’s up to them,” Woods said. “They ultimately have a choice to make. Do we take advantage of an opportunity and run with it? And these kids have.”
Congressional and the tournament aren’t a normal environment for Edwards and Sadalah. But they couldn’t wait not only to hang with Woods, but to tell others about the environment his foundation has helped provide them.
“It’s been a warm feeling,” Edwards said.
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