At just 15 years old, Mikaili Smith is already making waves as a young leader in the First Tee – Central Ohio program. Recently, she had the incredible opportunity to attend the inaugural First Tee Leadership Academy in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore. Mikaili traveled to Atlanta, where she spent five transformative days developing new leadership skills and learning about the powerful impact sports can have on communities, businesses, and civic pride. Mikaili’s journey represents the core of First Tee’s mission, combining her passion for golf with a desire to inspire and empower others.
Building Connections and Embracing New Experiences
Mikaili’s journey began when she was selected as one of 48 participants from across the nation to attend the first ever First Tee Leadership Academy in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore. Excited and nervous, she set out on this adventure, unsure of what to expect. However, she soon discovered the incredible opportunities that awaited her, including networking with peers from around the country, learning from inspiring speakers, and exploring iconic sports facilities in Atlanta.
Upon returning from the trip, Mikaili shared her excitement, “I instantly made 47 new friends. It was really cool to see how similar we all were – like we all had experience with teaching younger kids.” The friendships she developed during the trip demonstrated the power of golf in fostering meaningful connections.
Discovering New Perspectives
Throughout the week, Mikaili and her fellow participants experienced various aspects of the sports world, from touring the Atlanta Falcons training facility to watching an Atlanta United soccer game. For Mikaili, who had never been to a soccer match before, this experience was especially memorable.
Empowering Through Leadership
At the Leadership Academy, Mikaili and her peers dug into team building and leadership exercises. Split into smaller groups, they participated in interactive activities designed to build their leadership skills and promote teamwork. One of the most impactful exercises involved selecting three words each day and discussing the words with their group, creating a powerful paragraph by the end of the week.
Reflecting on this experience, Mikaili noted, “As we turned words into sentences and built our paragraph, it was really cool to see similar traits we had in common.” These leadership exercises demonstrated First Tee’s dedication to fostering young leaders with effective communication, empathy, and teamwork skills.
Pursuing Future Dreams
Mikaili’s passion for golf and her commitment to making a difference in the lives of others have led her to become a valuable leader in her community. As a Girls Golf eLeader and a dedicated member of her high school golf team, she continues to inspire and support younger girls interested in the sport.
Through her experience at the Leadership Academy, Mikaili feels like she learned valuable skills, like public speaking and networking, that she knows will be vital in her leadership roles. Mikaili shared, “We talked about the important skills to have as a leader. You need to listen a lot – listen to other people’s perspectives.”
Encouraging Others to Seize Opportunities
When asked about her advice to other First Tee participants who might be hesitant about applying for leadership opportunities, Mikaili’s response was clear: “Apply for everything that you can, reach out for every opportunity. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Mikaili’s participation in the inaugural First Tee Leadership Academy highlights the positive impact of First Tee programs and opportunities for growth they offer. Her story demonstrates the power of embracing new challenges, collaborating with peers and building valuable leadership expertise – all skills that will last a lifetime.
As Mikaili continues to pursue her passion for golf and her dream of becoming a graphic designer and architect, we can’t wait to see the great things she achieves both on and off the course!
If you’re interested in helping kids like Mikaili become Game Changers, learn more about getting involved with First Tee.