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Leaders tee up transition, drive change at The First Tee of Greater Knoxville
Executive director announces new nonprofit organization
After 12 successful years, Diondre Jackson is stepping down as executive director of The First Tee of Greater Knoxville to launch an independent nonprofit organization. The First Tee of Greater Knoxville founding board member Archie Ellis will serve as interim executive director.
The First Tee of Greater Knoxville is committed to impacting the lives of young people under the age of 18 by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.
Expanding on this mission, Jackson is forming a new nonprofit organization called Penultimate Development, which includes a 10-month leadership and career development Penult Leadership Program designed to transform at-risk youth by nurturing their spiritual, personal and professional development. The organization will complement The First Tee, providing young adults ages 18-24 with the tools and skills for success.
“Diondre’s leadership and dedication have benefited not only our organization and its participants but also the larger community we serve,” said Alan Gibb, board chairman of The First Tee of Greater Knoxville. “While we will miss having him at the helm, he has our full support. Penultimate Development is a needed outgrowth of our youth programs and a natural evolution of the services we have provided to the community.”
Under Jackson’s leadership, The First Tee of Greater Knoxville expanded from 200 kids to reaching more kids in more schools than ever before, thus impacting the lives of 17,000 young people in Knox, Sevier and Loudon counties. He also created an after-school program that impacts more than 100 kids within East Knoxville and helped Williams Creek Golf Course become one of the best Par 3 golf courses in the country and ranked fourth in the state. Additionally, he has served as a coach, mentor and friend and has inspired and uplifted countless youth.
“I have loved every minute of my 12 years at The First Tee and Williams Creek Golf Course helping young people reach their full potential in life,” Jackson said. “I view this transition not as a departure but as an extension of what we’ve accomplished. As The First Tee of Greater Knoxville continues to impact the lives of our youth, I will be expanding those efforts for Knoxville’s young adults. And, thanks to an initial group of funders who see the need as I do, Penultimate Development is quickly getting off the ground.”
Utilizing the Falls Church Fellows Program based in Virginia as an inspiration, and leveraging Jackson’s experience in the development of young people through The First Tee and Young Life, Penultimate Development aims to provide a continuum of services in the community. It will offer support and transition assistance and help develop young leaders in Knoxville.
“I was a high jumper at the University of Tennessee, and all students of the high jump understand that the second-to-last step – the penultimate – is the most important before takeoff,” Jackson said. “For the penultimate step, the jumpers lower their center of gravity, converting horizontal momentum into vertical force and launching into the air. In the Penult Leadership Program, participants focus on the personal, spiritual and professional skills they need to exalt themselves to new heights. It’s the last step from high school to adulthood and will help shape how far they can soar. The primary goal of the program is to create leaders within our inner-city communities to achieve lasting change.”
Jackson’s last day as executive director is June 30, and he has been working with Ellis in preparation for a smooth transition.
In his role as interim executive director, Ellis will work with the board to determine the future leadership and direction of the organization and build upon the growth and success achieved under Jackson. In his capacity as a consultant over the past 40 years in East Tennessee, Ellis has specialized in public relations, government relations, branding, marketing and fundraising with a large number of for-profit and non-profit entities. He also has served in a senior staff role with local and regional companies and organizations such as the Bijou Theater, Maryville College, Partners, Lawler Wood, Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation and Knoxville Habitat for Humanity.
“Archie is a trusted advisor and zealous advocate for The First Tee of Greater Knoxville,” Gibb said. “His leadership is invaluable as we build on the foundation established by Diondre and position our organization for the future.”
About The First Tee of Greater Knoxville
Our goal at The First Tee of Greater Knoxville is not to develop the next professional golfer, but to help our youth make the transition into adulthood, teaching them how to set and achieve realistic goals, deal with conflicts and challenges, and develop core values.
The First Tee is a World Golf Foundation initiative dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds with an opportunity to develop, through golf and character education, life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship. The intent is to offer opportunities for improvement in the quality of life and create a platform where children can increase their potential for success.
The First Tee Life Skills Experience is divided into five levels, starting with PLAYer for new participants and progressing through Par, Birdie, Eagle and Ace. Each level of the Life Skills Experience can be taught seamlessly with all golf skills curricula.
Through this experience, participants learn valuable lessons such as the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, how to make decisions by thinking about the possible consequences, how to define and set goals, and how to transfer the positive values of golf to everyday life.