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Caroline Chavez: Student, First Tee Golf Instructor, Mentor

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Caroline Chavez, 17, of Stockton, a senior at St. Mary’s High School, began volunteering through the LPGA Girls Golf program when she was 12. Perhaps she was only testing the waters, but while volunteering, it reminded her how much she loved teaching.

“I had a similar type of volunteer work before First Tee, where I became a teacher’s assistant at my karate dojo. I was only eight when I began teaching and helping in class, but I continued to do so up until I was 15. When you see people improving because you were able to help them, it sparks a different feeling of comraderie and pride. Teaching is a great way to learn. Not only did I learn to develop my strategies to help others but was able to find and polish skills of my own. I became a better student when I became a teacher.”

At First Tee, Caroline felt these benefits once again, but in a new environment. “A lot of the kids remind me of my little self with their restless energy and susceptibility to frustration, and I tell them the same things my coaches would tell me, like ‘Focus on swinging, not hitting the ball,’ and ‘It’s okay to make mistakes because that’s how we can learn from them.’

“I don’t exactly remember the underlying incentive to begin golfing and mostly recall how I just found it fun. The First Tee was my first experience with golfing, and it’s authentic in its own way,” Caroline smiles. “First Tee taught me to be more constructive of myself, rather than strictly critical. I learned to acknowledge my mistakes as learning opportunities. With my other sports, this probably could have been taught, but none of those communities had the nurturing focus that First Tee had.”

Caroline feels that First Tee has helped her to grow into a more confident individual and a teacher. “The part that has changed my life the most is being able to grow relationships with the First Tee community. A notable example is my experience at the 2023 Game Changers Academy in Philadelphia last summer. I knew that First Tee was established around the nation, but this was my first time seeing it in person. I have always valued the pursuit of knowledge and always being open to new experiences. I have been able to extend my social network because of First Tee, and I have grown as an intellectual over the past eight years.”

Caroline’s future plans include becoming a surgeon. “I have always been intrigued by life sciences, especially the human body. I have been leaning toward facial reconstructive surgery because of my passion for art. Overall, my success is my goal. To me, success is living while feeling fulfilled and enjoying my life, but it is not limited to becoming a doctor. I also want to travel the world and see what the world has to offer.”