Caddie Academy gives high school girls chance to learn golf, earn scholarship

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The summer golf season is providing a unique opportunity for a group of girls looking to expand their horizons and improve their chances for future success.

The high schoolers turned summer caddies get to the golf course before sunrise across as part of the Western Golf Associations Caddie Academy.

"Caddie academy is a very educational program that teaches you how to network, how to speak to people, how to meet new people, how to build perseverance -- and it's a wonderful opportunity to get you out on the course to learn to golf, and learn how to caddy and earn a scholarship," Caddie Academy senior Maya Pinson.

The seven-week summer program operates like a golf boarding school, where dozens of girls come together in hopes of earning the Evans Scholarship.

"It's been a lot about learning about myself and learning who I am," said fellow Caddie Academy senior, Jayla Austin- Duarte. "A lot of self-discovery, meeting new people, learning how to talk, how to work hard, learning how to be yourself."

"We all share common experiences and the pressure that first-generation low-income students feel from their families to succeed," said Caddie Academy graduate Celeste Ortiz.

Living with girls from all over the country and meeting golfers from all walks of life has opened their eyes to a bigger world, but it's the college scholarship that has changed their lives for the present and now limitless future.

"That means everything. It will take off the financial struggle that my mom would have to go through," Pinson said. "I know that can be a lot, especially with her being a single parent."

"It means so much to me, it's honestly a blessing and a miracle almost," Ortiz said. "There's been a lot of struggles that each one -- each generation before me has gone through - and like so much strife and struggling to get to this point, and I just feel like we won... It's life-changing. Completely life-changing, like, I will never be the same and I will have a future that my parents and I don't think anyone before them could ever imagine for themselves."

"My family and I, we are just so grateful for this opportunity. We never thought something like this would come- it's just... from the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you to Caddie Academy," Austin- Duarte said. "It's just amazing."
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