Words of Wisdom from Elvin Gladney & Impact of The First Tee Mentoring Program

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Elvin Gladney has been an active participant with The First Tee of Greater Seattle since 2012 and is currently a full time student at South Seattle College studying Automotive Technology. Elvin has overcome challenges in his life including the loss of his father and diagnosis of high functioning Autism at age 4.

Elvin faces these challenges and lives each day with an unwavering positive spirit and an infectious enthusiasm. His challenges in no way define the person that he is.

Elvin is special not only because of his tremendous heart but for his wisdom well beyond his years.

His involvement in The First Tee program has been especially impactful because it provided him with mentorship and a sense of community.

“When I became involved in The First Tee, I learned it could change my mood into a joyful mood. Coaches helped me improve my golf game and swing and feel encouragement,” Elvin says.

Faith is also a big part of Elvin’s life. His involvement in fellowship allowed him to feel “encouragement from people in other churches and religions. It taught me how to pray and forgive in life and build a foundation of strong faith and keep the people you love close.”

Through The First Tee Mentoring Program Elvin was introduced to his mentor, Eli Winfrey. Eli has been a long time coach and mentor at The First Tee of Greater Seattle and considers his involvement with the chapter one of the highlights of his life. Winfrey served in the military for 10 years, hosts his own radio show, and is the Founder & President of TeamWinfrey, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating and helping the homeless, underprivileged youth, and those on the Autism spectrum.

Elvin with his mentor, Eli Winfrey

“Elvin is a very talented and fun individual to be around,” Winfrey says.
“We talked about his dreams and goals, his golf game, and our friendship. I enjoyed watching his golf game improve. When we would work on projects in our mentor class, he always presented great ideas, his energy was outstanding, and his smile was second to none. Our bond has grown since then as we always chat via text, email, and Facebook. Over the holidays I surprised him with some Nike golf shirts which when presented, we both got very emotional. This is what The First Tee of Seattle creates and I’m very grateful to them for that.”

In Elvin’s words…

“I think I don’t have the connection to socialize with people and can be really quiet. It’s hard to socialize with other people. Eli was a friendly person who has a happy heart and healthy soul and he doesn’t get himself upset or mad. I like it. He has a joyful mood and he gave me golf gifts I never would have had – when I talk with my mentor Eli I feel like he has great common sense about how I handle different challenges while I am on the autism spectrum – Getting to know Eli was awesome because he took me to The Home Course in DuPont and he had me on his radio show in summer of 2018 – that made me feel happy that I am going to be famous!  He makes me feel confident and comfortable and that I am not alone in what I struggle
with.”

Last year things changed and while dealing with personal challenges Eli made the difficult decision “to step away from the mentoring program at The First Tee of Seattle for quite a bit of time. In doing so, I sat down with Elvin to explain to him what I was going through and that as we all continue to grow as people. There comes a point when the mentee takes the baton from the mentor and becomes the leader. As we grow, we must move forward with the knowledge that we’ve been taught and apply that to the next group of people who are looking for mentors and role models” says Winfrey.

Elvin has done just that and has become a leader and mentor in The First Tee Mentoring community. When asked what advice he has for folks dealing with challenges Elvin had this to say and let it be a lesson to us all!

“Don’t get yourself into a pickle – overly stressed and hesitated with conflicts. Be comfortable using CARE,” a First Tee Eagle level lesson for dealing with challenges.
“Prepare for new challenges and in dealing with challenges, sometimes it gets easier but some can be difficult. How to resolve conflicts is part of The First Tee Eagle book. When we deal with conflicts we have to Communicate, Actively listen, Review options, and End with a win-win. We want to learn about people’s different races and cultures and we want to interact with people and make them feel comfortable and welcome and use the CARE method to resolve conflicts. Dealing with a lot of conflicts can be hard but when you resolve them you have to make things better for everyone and end with a win-win. That’s what I gave to Eli – put CARE into your heart and no matter how hard it is, try to make things easier.”

Elvin joined us as the keynote speaker at our Microsoft Charity Scramble fundraising event on October 7th 2019 and you can see catch his speech HERE!

Thank you Elvin for being a part of our community and continuing to lift others up with your tremendous spirit and huge heart!

Elvin leading his team to victory in the Mentoring Rowing Relay
Advice from Elvin hanging in our office

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