Like the seasons, students come and go. In the six years it's been running, the Tiger Woods Learning Center has been fortunate to be touched by so many wonderful members.
Many come in barely four feet tall, while others join at a much older age. Some stay for a long time, while others pass through briefly. But for a select few, the Learning Center has had the pleasure of watching these students transform completely. Some such students are Alma Gutierrez, Mehrab Sarwar, Eddie Guillen and Jose Valdez. They started out as members, but eventually became key employees on the Tiger Woods Learning Center staff.
Alma, Mehrab, Eddie and Jose's experiences are by no means the same. But one thing rings true: the Tiger Woods Learning Center changed their lives.
All are going through college and find that their jobs at the Learning Center are invaluable as they make their way through. In addition to being able to earn money, these members-turned-employees continue to receive support from the Learning Center staff as well as valuable work experience.
Alma, who is currently attending Cal State Fullerton, said, "I think this place taught me how to dream and dream big. Let's say I was working for Subway -- you don't have bosses or managers who ask you what you want to do and how they can help you get there. From Kathy Bihr, TWLC's executive director, I've learned a lot about traveling. At the Learning Center, they let you dream big, and they don't tell you that you can't do anything or go anywhere."
Alma has been coming to the Learning Center since she was 15. She then started volunteering and officially became part of the staff at 17.
Duties range from working the front desk to assisting in the classroom. Mehrab came into the Learning Center as a member in 2007. He then volunteered for six months during his sophomore year in high school and became a staff member not long thereafter in 2008. As a volunteer and now staff member, Mehrab says a lot of his duties entail interacting with students who come in to the Learning Center for academic support.
"It's been really rewarding," Mehrab said. "The opportunity the Learning Center gave me and now being able to hand that down to the class -- it's really cool to see that. Personally, I just feel like I'm responsible. I may not know it, but maybe I'll have an impact on a kid somewhere down the line."
Mehrab currently attends Cypress College, where he studies political science.
Eddie has been with the TWLC since its beginnings in 2006. He was part of the Learning Center's pilot program and has never left. As a member, Eddie spent most of his time out on the golf course.
"It was the first time I went golfing," he said. "I think I was in the eighth grade when they sent us to Dad Miller [Golf Course]. I'd never been on a course before, and that was fun for me. I love golf because anyone can play no matter how good you are."
Eddie became a staff member in 2010 during his senior year in high school. Having played golf at the Learning Center and eventually for his high school golf team, Eddie has become sort of an expert. As a staff member, Eddie is now in charge of the TWLC's golf equipment.
"During classes, I help with supervision," he said. "I'll fix golf clubs for the kids. I re-shaft and re-grip. I also drive the golf cart around to pick up golf balls."
Eddie loves talking to the kids, who confide in him. He currently attends Fullerton Community College.
If you've been following the Learning Center, chances are that you've heard of Jose Valdez. Like Eddie, Jose has been a part of the TWLC since its pilot program in 2006. When asked how much he's changed since he first stepped into the Learning Center, Jose said, "Wow. I've changed in so many ways. My ability to adapt to different scenarios, to anything thrown at me has improved. I've learned to always do things with a positive view, to be confident and just be very intentional about my actions."
Now as staff members, Alma, Jose, Eddie and Mehrab have seen their responsibilities greatly expand. According to Jose, this entails "helping out students, building relationships, encouraging students to think outside the box, being creative and pushing them past their own expectations -- that's what I think my role is at the Learning Center."
And as Eddie said, "It sure beats fast food."