Under the Spotlight

For their intelligence, community service, and sportsmanship, Chandler Dorsey, Jailynn Thomas, and Kennedy Howard are shining bright.

Power for Good Scholarship winners from left to right: Kennedy Howard, Chandler Dorsey, and Jailynn Thomas.

Power For Good Overview

For twenty years, The First Tee has inspired and empowered the next generation through value-based programs, community service, and the game of golf. Equally dedicated to the world’s future leaders, John Deere has sponsored The First Tee since 2012. To continue showing their support, the John Deere Power for Good Scholarship Contest was created to recognize the efforts of young men and women who, like John Deere, have a passion for making their surroundings better.

Through an essay application, students were asked to write about how they are a ‘Power for Good’ in their communities, and how helping others connects to The First Tee’s Nine Core Values.

After a competitive nationwide selection, three students were chosen to receive college scholarships and a VIP experience at the John Deere Classic. And even though recipients Chandler Dorsey, Jailynn Thomas, and Kennedy Howard come from different backgrounds, their personal values and love for golf have led them to this success. As Director of Global Brand Management and President of Corporate Citizenship for the John Deere Foundation, Mara Downing says, “Your core values guide you in your day-to-day decisions and give you the confidence that you’re making the right decisions. They serve as a compass.”

Scholarship winner Chandler, practicing his swing.

Chandler Dorsey

Hometown: Stockbridge, Georgia
Grade: College Freshman
School: Georgia Tech

When Chandler Dorsey started playing golf at age 9, it wasn’t exactly love at first swing. However, some wisdom from his mom helped put things in perspective. “I didn’t really like how structured it [The First Tee of Atlanta] was, but I ended up coming back and from there, I started to get more involved with golf itself. I remember my mom’s rationale was since you’re part of a golf program, you might as well be good at it … So I started getting really dedicated with it, and [now] I really love the game.” One of Chandler’s favorite parts of the game is the mental agility you need to play. “It allows me to use my athleticism in a different way. With golf, you can consider the shot, you can consider all the possibilities and that makes me more comfortable.”

Chandler’s affinity for critical thinking also helped him choose his path outside of golf: This fall, he’s a freshman at Georgia Tech studying to be a mechanical engineer. “Engineering ties into golf to me, because it’s all about dissecting the situation. I find that it’s the best way to help a lot of people because … you’re planning the best way to do something.”

Chandler presenting on a panel at a former The First Tee event.

So when the Power for Good scholarship opportunity presented itself, Chandler knew he had to apply to set himself up for an even brighter future. “I had done a John Deere program for The First Tee and I learned a lot about the John Deere philosophy. They put a lot of effort into helping other people. So when I saw that scholarship, I was thinking, ‘This is the perfect opportunity to connect with this company that’s so well-versed in giving back to the community.’” And upon hearing he had won? “I was very excited to meet the people at John Deere and take part in that great experience.”

Aside from his success on the course, Chandler also credits The First Tee of Atlanta with helping him become the leader and person he is today. “The big thing I like to be part of is leadership. It allowed me to really become a leader in our sessions, [because] I was tasked to lead sessions and control 10 or 12 kids in a group. That heterogeneous environment is good to test someone’s leadership.” And for him, it’s just the beginning.

I began to work with younger The First Tee of Atlanta members during times where I was not in my own session. My goal was to instill in them the same core values that I had learned and explore opportunities to increase The First Tee of Atlanta’s member engagement. My dedication led to the launch of The First Tee of Atlanta Teen Club Advisory Board, which allows me to have a more structured role in guiding the group towards positive decision-making. ”

—Chandler Dorsey

Scholarship winner Jailynn, at the John Deere Drive Your Future event.

Jailynn Thomas

Hometown: Gary, Indiana
Grade: College Freshman
School: Barton College

Even though golf wasn’t popular in Jailynn Thomas’ hometown of Gary, Indiana, her passion for the game was predestined. “I started playing golf when I was 8 years old, my dad got me started with the game. His father actually taught him how to play.” Just two years later, Jailynn began playing in tournaments and joined The First Tee of Lake County, which helped build her perseverance. And perseverance isn’t only something you need while playing golf, it’s also The First Tee Core Value that Jailynn relates to most. “Golf requires you to produce physically, but also mentally. You have to be able to think on your feet and about what your next decision is.

So when she found out about the all-girls John Deere Drive Your Future Academy, she was determined to apply. “I participated in a John Deere event last year and I really enjoyed the people that I met and the things I learned about John Deere. I wanted to come back and do it all over again.” After being selected, Jailynn also learned that she’d received one of three John Deere Power for Good college scholarships. “I’m ecstatic about the scholarship as any scholarship winner should be! It helps me so much in my educational career, in addition to the athletic success that I’m looking forward to.”

Having the opportunity to give back to those around you, especially those who are in dire need of support and love, is absolutely heartwarming. The life skills instilled in me by The First Tee of Lake County have not only caused me to constantly develop as a well-rounded individual, but also inspired me to want to teach others about what it means to be respectful, responsible, confident and courteous.”

—Jailynn Thomas

And she’s got a plan to prove it. Jailynn will attend Barton College in the fall and play golf for the Division II school. But that’s just the start.

Jailynn on the course practicing her swing.

“I’ll be getting my Bachelor’s Degree, but also getting my Master’s Degree. I’m going to take that and start my own school for underprivileged girls and I want to focus on not only teaching them education, but also life skills, similar to the ones I’ve learned at The First Tee.”

At John Deere Drive Your Future Academy, Jailynn was able to take what she’s learned through The First Tee and put it into practice. “It meant so much, and not just [about] playing golf, [but] learning about your life and also being able to give back through service opportunities.” And she knows that the impact of John Deere Drive Your Future Academy will last a lifetime. “This is one of those events that we’ll look back later on in life and we’ll remember it. We’ll remember what we did, the experiences we had, we’ll remember the people that spoke and what was said.”

I desire to walk away with the confidence and skills necessary to become a successful leader and young entrepreneur. Being in the presence of others with the same dreams and aspirations will further solidify my desire to become a future leader in my community and chapter. I wish to share with others my drive and passion for not only my love of golf, but also my love of life.”

—Kennedy Howard

Scholarship winner Kennedy, at the John Deere Drive Your Future event.

Kennedy Howard

Hometown: Roark, Kentucky
Grade: 12
School: Leslie County High School

For Kennedy Howard, playing golf began as a family affair. “My grandfather and my dad are both involved. I started playing golf at 5 years old, my grandfather signed me up for The First Tee. As I got older, I became part of their foursome on the weekends; they’ve been very supportive.”

In addition to golf, Kennedy is also a cheerleader and runs track. But it’s the lessons learned on the course that have helped her find self-acceptance. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist, [but] when I hit a bad shot, I can just calm down and not get too angry at myself. Golf has taught me that I don’t have to be perfect.” It even helped her cope with real-life trials and tribulations that came her way at a young age. “When I was 13, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, I had to really step up and play a larger role in the family, and golf and The First Tee really helped with that.”

Her hard work and natural leadership paid off. Earlier this year, Kennedy was nominated to apply for John Deere Drive Your Future Academy by The First Tee of Pine Mountain’s chapter directors. “I was just very, very excited to apply. My father was in the logging business, so we’ve always had John Deere equipment. So that, with the golf, I thought that was very awesome.” After being accepted, Kennedy participated in the program’s hands-on educational sessions, service outreach, and plenty of golf. But her favorite part? “Just networking and meeting new people is awesome that I can stay in contact with from all over the country.”

Kennedy is also passionate about community service and volunteers her time to different outreach projects. “I volunteer 3-4 days a week with the younger [The First Tee] participants, and I recycle eyeglasses and do eyeglass drives. I [also] do shoe drives and canned foods for the cancer outreach program in our community.” It’s this kind of hands-on participation that helped her secure the John Deere Power for Good scholarship as she continues toward her future successes. “I was pretty surprised actually, but it’s just very rewarding that all of my hard work is paying off.”

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Under the Spotlight

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