DALLAS — At Lakewood Country Club in the ballroom and hallways that surround it, an energetic young man by the name of T.J. Vaughns is experiencing a series of sweet reunions featuring a steady stream of greetings and salutations.
“How you doing?”
“What’s up man?”
“Good to see you!”
Vaughns couldn’t be more enthusiastic on a day he looks forward to each and every year, "It’s like a warm feeling,” he says. "It’s like this sense of family."
This one of a kind family created by the Fairway to Success Program.
The Northern Texas section of the PGA spearheads the program bringing the game of golf to underserved DISD students.
And while teaching tenets of the game that have carry-over to everyday life deserving students are identified
And on this day scholarships are awarded. In 15 transformative years, the program has doled out more than $1.3 million in scholarship money.
This year there were seven winners selected. Six of them received $20-thousand each with the seventh earning a full four-year ride to UNT-Dallas.
Many winners the first in their family to attend college.
"I look around the room. I see tears, tears from a whole lot of people who probably haven’t cried in a couple years,” said Northern Texas PGA Section Executive Director and CEO Mark Harrison.
"It’s moving. It’s an inspiration.”
And when you hear what some of the recipients have gone through to get to this point, the impact becomes immediately apparent.
"Students who never even thought about colleges, students whose parents have never been to college they’re getting this opportunity,” says Vaughns before cracking a wide smile and adding, "it’s a blessing man."
Vaughns understands the blessing implicitly. The Pleasant Grove native earned a Fairway to Success Scholarship in 2015.
He’s transformed a tough situation into dreams realized, earning a business degree from UNT Dallas. And now he’s finishing up work on his MBA at UNT.
Professional services company Deloitte partners with the NTPGA to help underwrite the program and provide mentors for the students.
Vaughns has made the most of all the help and already owns multiple businesses, while also working at UNT-Dallas.
"I didn’t know what life had planned for me but all I knew is I wanted to see better for my family,” he said.
It would be off base to underestimate the financial impact these scholarships have; it is significant. But this program is about so much more. It’s as if they shine a light for these kids illuminating their pathway to success. And a large part of that comes from the relationships fostered and the family-type environment that is the program's signature.
"The family component, the mentor component means equally as much as the money, so it's a family,” says Harrison.
“And it honestly is life-changing."
Vaughns is one of those lives, "I don’t feel that it’s just a right-off for the people that are doing the scholarship or doing the program. It’s a family a whole family.”
Making this yearly one of a kind family reunion, something we can all celebrate.