The First Tee Innovators Forum is an annual event that allows for youth in the First Tee programs across the globe to come together to make change in their communities. This year, First Tee – Greater Richmond chapter was privileged as Henry Powell was selected to attend the event in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the First Tee Network Summit Nov. 16-19.
Henry began his First Tee journey at eight years old and has been part of our programs since. He began at the Player level, progressing to 14+ (formerly Eagle) and is currently a member of our Junior Advisory Board.
Henry was one of 28 participants selected to attend the Innovators Forum from across First Tee chapters across the globe and was selected based on academic achievement, community service, chapter involvement, leadership, essay responses and letters of recommendation.
Youth gathered to work on their service projects to bring back to their local communities. Each day was comprised of workshopping, guest speakers, and meetings with mentors and First Tee alumni. The goal was for alumni and mentors to give participants advice that would allow them to implement their service projects back in their local community.
Henry’s service project involved bringing STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) education to his local community, Petersburg, Va.
“STEM has been a monumental factor in my life, because I go to a technology school now, and I get all these great opportunities around technology,” Henry remarked. “But some kids in Petersburg don’t even get introduced to anything related to STEM. I want to bring STEM to them for free through my high school robotics team.”
Henry plans to continuing working on his project over the next few months and hopes to build a team at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School and community to assist him in implementing his plan, which he hopes to roll out in spring 2023.
At the Innovators Forum, participants enjoyed a private session with former President George W. Bush, in which Henry was able to pose a question for the 44th president.
“I asked him in his life, what has he done to manage stress? He told us that he has found something to him that he enjoys, and takes time out of his day to do it. He said he has done a lot of painting and he said this really helped him relax. He recommended that we find something like that in our lives and set aside time to do that to keep us healthy.”
Following the Innovators Forum, Henry was selected as a recipient of the First Tee Innovators Forum Scholarship participant. This is an award that is given to a select group of that recognizes youth who have thrived in their community and creating their service project. When asked what this award meant to him, Henry said:
“It means so much. While I was there, the experience I had with them (First Tee Alumni and Mentors) was life changing alone. The professionals helped me so much and gave me such good lessons that I’ll never forget. And for them to be so gracious and give this award to me makes me even more thankful because it shows me that they recognize the hard work that I was putting in. And I’m just so thankful for everything that they’ve done for me.”
The Innovators Forum marked the culmination of Henry’s experience with First Tee – Greater Richmond, and he recognizes how the chapter has impacted his life.
“First Tee got me into golf, obviously,” Henry said. “That’s something I do a lot, but more importantly, it has changed my character. At First Tee, one of the most important things they teach you are life lessons. In every class, you go over a core value. The core values have really changed who I am for the better.”