In 1979, Bill Hayes, a teacher, golfer, and part-time detention officer, invited professional golfer Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez to a juvenile detention center in Florida to give a golf clinic for the detained youngsters. Rodriguez and Hayes agreed that there had to be a better way to help these adolescents succeed. The Hayes-Rodriguez team enlisted Bob James, founder of Raymond James Financial, Inc. and the three of them embarked on the journey of building the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation.
The first activity of the new Foundation was an After School Program, which began with just 17 youngsters. This small group of at risk youth were taken to Clearwater, Florida area golf clubs and given home work assistance and personal guidance by teachers and volunteers.
In 1983, the Foundation found a home for its After School Program at the Glen Oaks par-three golf course near downtown Clearwater. Over the next 20 years the Glen Oaks facility would serve thousands of at risk youth ages 5 to 18 and set them on a course for academic and personal success.
In 1989, the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club opened up in Clearwater to provide the community’s youth with additional access to the After-School Programming developed at the Glen Oaks facility.
In 1993, the Foundation developed a Public Private Partnership School with the Pinellas County School System at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club. The Public Private Partnership School started out serving 5th grade students that were not achieving at their grade level, had low self-esteem or were having difficulty adjusting to their academic environment.
In 2004, the Foundation’s programs had expanded to include a local chapter of the The First Tee. The First Tee of Clearwater was created to promote character development and life enhancing values through the game of golf.
In 2007, The First Tee of Clearwater’s program expanded to serve over 800 participants. During that time the Public Private Partnership School grew into what became the Chi Chi Rodriguez Academy, at which point the Academy expanded to serve fourth through eighth graders.
In 2008, the Foundation added the Big Brothers Big Sisters Sisters program into its After School Program. The collaboration is paid for by a federal grant.
In 2009, the Academy assumed management of the 30 acre driving range across the street from the Academy and renamed it the Chi Chi Rodriguez Sports Complex. The Sports Complex continues to help support the Academy and offer students more living classroom experiences. The renovated Complex now includes a driving range, paintball field, and pro shop.
In 2009, the Foundation also added the Boys and Girls Club into its programming. The addition of the Boys and Girls Club spurred an additional growth of the After School Program, which over 57% of the academy population currently attends.
Now in 2011, the Academy currently serves 95 students from fourth through eighth grade. In addition to the Foundation’s supporting programs, The First Tee of Clearwater, Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters help the Foundation meet its mission to serve over 1,000 children annually.