Tallahassee locals, including some closely involved in the Process, are teeing off a new youth development organization in the capital city.
First Tee Tallahassee is the latest branch of First Tee, an organization that strives to enable children to build strong character to prepare them for life’s challenges. The team of leaders putting First Tee to Tallahassee include Founder and Chairman Chuck Urban, Executive Director Tracy Marple and Board Member Alia Faraj-Johnson — president and CEO of Alia Strategic Group.
“A lot of people think First Tee is just about teaching children to play golf. But really, it’s about character development through golf,” Marple told Florida Politics.
The program provides students through a curriculum that teaches nine values through golf. Meanwhile, Southwood Golf Club is volunteering to loan their facilities to the organization.
“Our single focus is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and through the game of golf,” Faraj-Johnson said in a statement.
After three years of dreaming up ways to give back to the community, Urban officially founded First Tee in July, but the organization finally hit the fairway last weekend, ahead of Leon County Schools first day of classes and the girls and boys golf season. First Tee Tallahassee worked with Sabal Palm Elementary, a community partnership school, for a “back-to-school bash” on Saturday.
Sabal Palm Elementary School Principal Davis Shannon helped bring the program to her community development school. Shannon also has a special connection with golf — her son went to Florida A&M University on a golf scholarship.
Before First Tee Tallahassee expanded into the capital city, Tallahassee was one of the last few large cities without a chapter, of which there are 150 nationwide. The Tallahassee branch is the only affiliate between Jacksonville and Pensacola.
First Tee Tallahassee plans to cover all of Leon County and hopes to extend into Jefferson County next. Next, they aspire to cover Wakulla and Gadsden counties, and even Thomasville, Georgia.
Marple has a list of 21 elementary schools that at one point had some involvement in First Tee. Others like Fort Braden Elementary have reached out to her or Urban directly.
“I think the more we get the word out, the more the news spreads, the more people will want to get involved,” Marple said.
First Tee Tallahassee is ramping up this month, which is also National Golf Month.
“We are in fundraising mode, and donations are what we’re after,” Urban said.
First Tee Tallahassee is also seeking volunteers and coaches, and there’s no golf experience necessary to get involved.
After one event, Marple is already seeing signs of success. One kid who caught her eye was a little girl who picked up a club despite her broken arm.
“She just had that spark,” Marple said.
Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Aimee Sachs, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.
But first …
The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Florida pols react to Mar-a-Lago raid — Following Peter’s big-time scoop on the FBI’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, Republicans expressed outrage over the “weaponization” of the federal government. Chief among them was Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose office said he had no advanced knowledge about the warrant served in Palm Beach. “The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves,” DeSantis tweeted. “Now the Regime is getting another 87K IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.”
Christina Pushaw moves to campaign side — DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw says the “gloves are off” after departing her administrative role Friday to join the Governor’s re-election campaign as Director of Rapid Response. Deputy Press Secretary Bryan Griffin will be elevated to lead Press Secretary in her place. Both begin in their new roles on Monday. “You gave me latitude to respond to media narratives in direct and often unconventional ways, allowing me to redefine this role for a leader whose actions speak for themselves,” Pushaw wrote, addressing DeSantis and her superiors. Pushaw’s arrival in the DeSantis administration ushered in a combative approach to the state’s communications operation. “Like Christina did so well, I will ensure the Governor’s message is amplified and that false narratives are debunked,” Griffin tweeted.
Escambia teacher resigns over Black hero controversy — The Pensacola News Journal on Wednesday reported that an O.J. Semmes Elementary School teacher emailed a letter to DeSantis and district leadership accusing a district employee of removing depictions of “Black heroes” from his classroom, prompting the teacher to resign. Politicians such as gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist tied the employee’s actions to DeSantis and a recent law against “woke” education, which critics say whitewashes history, particularly Black history. “Of course, it would be appropriate to discuss civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. in the classroom,” the Governor’s Office said in a statement. “Anyone who asserts otherwise or pretends this is an unresolved question is either mistaken or misrepresenting the truth.”
Democratic lawmakers request investigation into FPL — Four Democratic lawmakers called on Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate Florida Power & Light following repeated scandals involving the utility company, Florida’s largest. Reps. Anna V. Eskamani, Joy Goff-Marcil, Yvonne Hayes Hinson and Carlos Guillermo Smith said recent reports have exposed ample evidence of malfeasance at FPL. The Attorney General’s Office referred their request to the Department of Law Enforcement. “The corruption, influence peddling, and breaches of the public trust by FPL and its senior executives should be of grave concern,” the quartet wrote.
Cannabis centers given 60 days to follow website rule — Medical marijuana treatment centers have 60 days to ensure their website and website purchasing services comply with a new emergency rule from the DeSantis administration. The rule comes after the state lost a legal battle last year to ban licensed dispensaries from contracting with third-party websites that offer “website purchasing” services to 740,213 qualified patients and their caregivers. Former DOH Chief of Staff Courtney Coppola sent a memo in February 2021 telling licensed dispensaries that using third-party e-commerce vendors runs afoul of Florida law and threatened $5,000 fines against companies that used the e-commerce services.
Tallahassee Community College (TCC) was awarded nearly $1.6 million for enhancements to its health care workforce training programs at its campuses in Leon and Gadsden counties.
TCC will use the Florida Job Growth Grant Funds to expand its surgical technology, dental hygiene, and dental assisting programs by purchasing new equipment to enroll and train students. TCC’s goal is to double the number of students it’s able to teach with the expansions and has set a goal of graduating nearly 1,300 students.
“I am proud to award this funding to Tallahassee Community College to enhance the skilled workforce in the Big Bend region and to provide Floridians with another pathway for success,” DeSantis said. “My administration will continue to invest in workforce development and equip Floridians with the skills necessary to thrive in the workforce and support their families.”
TCC President Jim Murdaugh thanked the Governor and his administration for supporting TCC’s workforce program as well as the state college system.
“This generous grant will allow us to continue our work of providing students and adult learners with the skills needed for jobs in in-demand industries here in our community,” Murdaugh said.
The Florida Job Growth Grant Fund is an economic development program designed to assist in the promotion of public infrastructure and workforce training. The 2022-23 Florida Job Growth Grant Fund Cycle is open and accepting applications for workforce training and infrastructure grants.
Proposals are reviewed by the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida. Ultimately, the Governor chooses which projects should receive the grants.
“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida’s workforce continues to grow, and strategic investments made through the Job Growth Grant Fund continue to pave new career paths and expand job opportunities for hardworking Floridians across the state,” Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle said. “These healthcare programs will serve as an economic catalyst in the region, encourage individual advancement, and develop a stronger workforce throughout the state.”