Lake Forest, Ill. –Nearly 80 girls from across the country are based at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart’s boarding school this summer as they are given the opportunity to caddie daily along Chicago’s North Shore. Woodlands Academy, an all-girls college preparatory day and boarding high school in Lake Forest, is hosting the Western Golf Association’s 2016 Caddie Academy.
The program, which provides female high school students the opportunity to work at one of 12 participating area golf and country clubs this year, has experienced a steady growth and found itself in need of larger quarters. Evans Scholarship House on the campus of Northwestern University had hosted Caddie Academy since its start in 2012 with an inaugural class of 12 that year.
Woodlands Academy was chosen to host this summer’s program based on factors including location, availability and facility quality. “It’s an unbelievable fit for our fifth summer of the Caddie Academy, and we are very excited about the future of the partnership,” said Mike Maher, who oversees Caddie Academy. “We are so thankful to the staff at Woodlands for their generous hospitality to the 78 young women who are a part of the program this year.”
Head of School Meg Steele sees this as an ideal summertime use for the boarding school, which houses mostly international students, typically from countries such as China and Mexico, during the school year. “Woodlands Academy, which is all about educating girls in transformative ways, is proud to serve as host this summer for such a unique program offering so many experiences and opportunities to high school girls from across the nation,” she said.
The seven-week academy (which began June 19) allows the girls, who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to work at a golf course, a chance to experience the benefits of caddying – from learning life lessons to being around successful adults. Participants are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and more than 90 percent are minorities. Those who complete the multi-year program can then apply for the Evans Scholarship which, so far, has been awarded to 17 participants.
“The Caddie Academy provides a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hard-working young women to be introduced to caddying and the sport of golf,” Maher added. “Those who successfully complete three summers of the program are eligible to apply for a full tuition and housing college scholarship.”
Three recent Woodlands Academy graduates who’ve won Evans Scholarships after completing Caddie Academy are giving back to the program this summer. Erika Rodriguez of Chicago is this year’s scholarship recipient. Before heading off to Northwestern University in the fall, she’s back on the Woodlands campus serving as a Caddie Academy junior counselor. Woodlands’ 2015 Evans Scholar, Shalonda Jones was part of the inaugural Caddie Academy and returns this summer as a counselor for the program. Jones, who is attending Marquette University, says the experience helps build a variety of skills – people skills, how to deal with all kinds of issues, organizational skills and compromising skills necessary to live in a group setting. “I love it because the academy promotes girls, and having attended an all-girls [high] school, I’m all for girl power,” she added. Bridgette Riverol, a 2013 Evans Scholarship winner, also is back at Woodlands as a Caddie Academy counselor this summer.
Counselors supervise and mentor the group, as well as driving the girls to their respective clubs each day. Throughout the program, special activities are planned for the group, such as a trip to a baseball game, special career talks from successful females or standardized test training.
In addition to the Chicago area, this year’s participants come from regions including Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Caddie Academy is a core part of the Evans Scholars Foundation’s plans for growth, with a goal of sending 1,000 caddies to college annually by 2020.
Participating clubs this year include Conway Farms Golf Club, Evanston Golf Club, Exmoor Country Club, The Glen Club, Glen View Club, Indian Hill Club, Knollwood Club, Onwentsia Club, North Shore Country Club, Northmoor Country Club, Skokie Country Club and Westmoreland Country Club.
The Caddie Academy is funded by a private donor, the Souder family. Proceeds from the Women’s Invitational golf fundraiser, now in its third year, also benefit the program.