“It’s changed my perspective and the way I look at things,” she said. “Before I came to the learning center, I knew what I wanted to do, but now that I’m here, they’re helping me reach that goal. I wasn’t sure how to get there, and they’re showing me how.”
Vega is part of a special leadership team at the center that allows her to make presentations to supporters and corporate partners. She recently spoke with Chevron executives about her involvement in Tiger’s Action Plan, a community service program tied to the foundation.
Woods, who lives in Florida, generally visits the center when he is on the West Coast. He is a visible presence throughout the center; a statue of Woods and his father, Earl, greets visitors as they enter the center.
Of course, any facility conceived by Woods would not be complete without a golf component, and the learning center sits on a 14-acre plot that contains a full driving range and putting course. The Dad Miller Golf Course, where Woods played his high school golf, is right next door. Students are permitted to use the driving range during their free time and can get instruction that allows them to earn playing privileges at Dad Miller and several other public courses in Southern California.
The center does not accept just anyone. Students must go through an application process and show a willingness to learn. But center officials also work with school counselors to identify troubled students who might benefit from a change in scenery or a more engaging curriculum.
“We have a lot of kids who are good students, and we have a whole host that really are pretty lost,” Bihr said. “And then we have a lot that counselors recommend that with a little bit of encouragement and motivation could become good students. So we have a lot that are right on that middle line, that sort of crossroads of becoming a really great student or maybe choosing a really bad place to be in life. We kind of work our magic most on that group.”
Woods and his foundation pledged to build a learning center in the District when he announced his tournament’s arrival in March 2007. The Tiger Woods Foundation has examined several potential sites, including an area near Fort Dupont in Southeast. An announcement on a location could come by the end of this year.
Long term, Woods said he would like to open learning centers in cities all around the world.
Bihr said she travels to Washington an average of once a month and has met with several city leaders, including D.C. Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. She said it’s too early to tell which programs would transfer well to Washington but that center officials are keeping an open mind.
“What we’re trying to figure out is what would be the best fit for that particular community,” she said. “I think some of the things that are happening here could certainly work there. What the learning center here brings is possibilities and hope. And I can’t think of a better thing that would be great for the kids in Washington, D.C., than hope and really just giving them an opportunity to see what life can be like outside that Beltway and how they can participate in it.”