SALINAS VALLEY — First Tee Monterey County has received a multi-year grant from Bank of America that will help expand its youth development programs into Greenfield, King City and additional Monterey Peninsula communities.
Salinas-based First Tee was recently named the 2021 Bank of America Neighborhood Champion for its work across the region removing barriers to success for at-risk students. As part of the program, the nonprofit organization will receive a $50,000 grant and virtual leadership training on such topics as human capital management, increasing financial sustainability and storytelling.
“With the help of the Bank of America Neighborhood Champion grant, we will be able to expand our reach to more elementary school districts across the county,” said Nick Nelson, CEO of First Tee Monterey County. “The commitment that the Alisal Union School District and First Tee made 14 years ago for every school in the district to learn life skills and core values through golf is paying off. The futures of so many young people are much brighter now.”
First Tee provides life skills and character training by combining classroom curriculum and mentorship with the sport of golf to local at-risk students. The organization initially focused on the most distressed neighborhood of East Salinas with its campus and Learning Center located there to “help keep vulnerable youth safe and away from gang influence,” Nelson said.
Now, First Tee offers classroom curriculum to thousands of students in the Alisal and King City school districts as well as after-school and weekend leadership activities. The program, which begins in elementary school, has contributed to higher graduation rates and lower dropout rates at high schools whose students participated in the various activities, according to Nelson.
The grant will allow First Tee to expand its programs into Greenfield, King City and Monterey Peninsula communities with an additional focus on behavioral health for teens impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as enable the organization to restart programs put on hold due to the pandemic.
“As communities continue to recover and navigate a changing landscape, nonprofits are still experiencing significant demands and are in need of resources to help support pathways to economic mobility,” said Jennifer Dacquisto, president, Bank of America Monterey Bay. “First Tee helps bridge important resource and skills gaps for students to help them chart a path toward economic opportunity and success. Programs like Neighborhood Champions help these organizations grow sustainably and strategically for greater positive impact in the community.”
The Neighborhood Champions program is invitation-only for nonprofits that are poised to take their work to the next level. According to Dacquisto, leading members of the community participated in a collaborative selection process to identify this year’s awardee.