FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2012
ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO AND THE FIRST TEE OFFICIALLY OPEN
YOUTH LEARNING CENTER AT ESSEX COUNTY WEEQUAHIC GOLF COURSE
Indoor Facility will enable The First Tee to Expand Programs
and Offer Year Round Activities
Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and The First Tee of Metropolitan New York officially opened The First Tee Youth Learning Center at Essex County Weequahic Park in Newark on Wednesday, June 6th. The First Tee has been offering its unique leadership, life skills and golf learning program to youth in Essex County since 2006 and the opening of the new Youth Learning Center will enable the organization to become a year-round program and expand participation.
“The First Tee is a phenomenal program that combines teaching young people how to play golf and leadership skills that will help them accomplish their goals throughout their lifetime. We are pleased that our relationship with The First Tee has been so successful and that through that partnership we have been able to provide our young people with an enriching recreational experience,” DiVincenzo said. “The opening of the Youth Learning Center will enable programming to expand over a full year, classes to be held indoors during inclement weather and new recreational and educational opportunities to be offered for our youth,” he added.
“We cannot thank County Executive DiVincenzo and the Board of Chosen Freeholders enough for their approval of funding this project, along with Kevin Ryan and Len Wilf for their vision and generosity in making this beautiful new Learning Center come to fruition,” said Ed Brockner, Director of Development for The First Tee of Metropolitan New York. “This will allow us to serve hundreds more young people in Essex County each year through our life skills and education programs, which preparestudents for college and beyond,” he added.
The Youth Learning Center is slightly larger than 1,600 square feet and includes a dedicated computer lab area and flexible classroom space for group learning and special presentations. The First Tee will provide after school tutoring as well as golf and life skills instruction through its youth development curriculum. The space will enable The First Tee to double the number of programs being offered, expand programs into full-year courses and provide a place for students to learn when there is inclement weather.
“I’m always encouraged to see opportunities for enrichment and empowerment created for our young people,” Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne said. “The First Tee provides access to the sport of golf but it’s also a program that helps build character,” he noted.
“I’m an avid golfer and have spent my professional career as an educator in Newark,” Freeholder Leonard Luciano said. “I can’t say how important it is to have this here for the benefit of the children. You can learn so many life skills through the game of golf,” he noted.
The designteam ofWilliam Mandara and GeorgiHubenov of Mancini Duffy/TSC Design and Armen Khachaturian from KEA Engineers donated theirservices to design the project. Dell-Tech Construction was awarded a competitively bid contract for $383,000 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works worked with the contractors to answer questions and avoid delays. Construction of the facility started in October 2011 and was completed earlier this spring.
Funding to purchase equipment and outfit the classroom space with thelatest learning technology, including indoor golf simulators, and education equipment was provided by philanthropists Kevin Ryan, Len Wilf and the Wilf Family Foundation. Essex County provided $383,000 from its Capital Budget to fund the construction.
Essex County entered into a partnership with The First Tee in August 2006. The First Tee developed a three-hole youth training course at Essex County Weequahic Golf Course. In addition it has offered training sessions to public school teachers who want to implement The First Tee’s curriculum into their physical education classrooms.
The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, miniature golf course, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Weequahic Golf Course, located in Essex County Weequahic Park, was opened in 1913 as a nine-hole course and was the first public golf course in New Jersey. In 1969, it was redesigned to include 18 holes.