Drew Charter School makes positive impact on East Lake

Providing tools to build a brighter future

Everyone deserves a chance to succeed – which is why the East Lake Foundation provides tools for Atlanta’s East Lake residents to build brighter futures through high-quality education, mixed-income housing and community wellness.

During the last decade, more than $20 million in proceeds from the TOUR Championship have been donated to the Atlanta community, including last year's contribution of more than $1.8 million to East Lake Foundation and The First Tee of East Lake.

This type of support has helped contribute to a fundamental transformation in the East Lake community. Once known as the most dangerous zip code in America, East Lake has been reborn as a thriving community where hope and prosperity are available to its residents. By creating and funding educational and wellness programs, the foundation has been able to empower families in East Lake to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

From the Charles R. Drew Charter School, offering cradle-to-college education for children in East Lake, to the Villages of East Lake apartment homes which offer safe, affordable housing for residents, the community itself has been reborn. Violent crime has been cut 95 percent, while school test scores and property values have surged. East Lake truly has become a community where every child – and every family -- has a chance to succeed.

One of the greatest symbols of the new hope in the community can be found in the ceremonial HOPE Shot hit by a participant in The First Tee of East Lake. Each year, the TOUR Championship pays tribute the right heritage of the East Lake Golf Club. This year, Solomon Dobbs, a sophomore at the Charles R. Drew Charter School, earned the right to represent the future of East Lake and kick off the golf’s biggest finish.

It was just an honor to see all the people I care about out there cheering me on.

Solomon Dobbs

“Hitting the HOPE Shot was unbelievable, but I was incredibly nervous. I didn’t think I would be that nervous, but when I approached the ball, my heart started pounding. But I asked (PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim) Finchem if my ball was in the fairway, and he said it was in the fairway on the left, so that was good enough for me," Dobbs added.

With Dobbs setting the tone for the future, the subjects of some of East Lake’s greatest stories have returned to make their mark on the community. Jeffrey Martin was a member of the Drew Charter School’s 8th grade class of 2005 before eventually graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. In September 2015, he established honorCode, a company that provides training to schools to integrate web development into the K-12 classroom.

Beginning this fall, honorCode will partner with Drew Charter School to provide direct instruction to teachers through professional development, as well as direct instruction to students in K-12 classrooms and through an after-school pilot program in high school.

A critical component of East Lake’s commitment to golf with a purpose is role played by the First Tee of East Lake. The nationally renown program has provided athletic guidance and life counsel to children in the community.

One of its alums, Darius Davis, used that experience to land a scholarship at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore where he currently is pursuing BA in golf management and competes on the school’s golf team. Like Martin, he is giving back to East Lake by serving as an intern at East Lake Golf Club next summer.

It’s those types of experiences that have a lasting impression on its students.

The First Tee of East Lake has truly changed my life.

Jimmy McClendon, First Tee of East Lake Participant

“Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. It teaches me life skills, and how to think and handle certain situations. Without it, I just wouldn’t know where I would be," McClendon said.

The success of the East Lake Initiative has served as a blueprint for a national model of holistic community redevelopment through Purpose Built Communities, established in 2009. Today, there are 14 additional Purpose Built Communities across the country that are successfully creating opportunities for residents, and building strong, economically diverse communities that thrive.

Today, East Lake is a fundamentally different – and better – place because of the work done by the leaders in the community to take control of their destiny. Contrary to the bleak environment of 20-plus years ago, East Lake stands as a symbol of hope for all to see.

Thanks to the generosity of PGA TOUR professional golfer J.B. Holmes, as well as select members of the East Lake Golf Club, $84,000 has been pledged this week to support the ongoing, transformative work of the East Lake Foundation. For more information on the "84 for 84" campaign, please click here.

TOUR Championship gives back