About once a month, Glenn Osako, 53, and Matthew Kim, 19, meet up and do something new together. Each of their excursions have a greater purpose—mentorship.
They have visited the Warner Brothers Studios. They went on a walking food tour in downtown Los Angeles. They have met each other’s families. Most memorably for two Steelers fans in southern California, they attended a Chargers vs. Steelers game at SoFi stadium. (The Steelers lost, but put up a good fight.)
“I give a lot of credit to Glenn because he plans so naturally and now I have these core memories of us bonding,” recalled Matthew, who is now a sophomore at the University of Southern California. He’s also in his second year as an Earl Woods Scholar through the TGR Foundation, a Tiger Woods Charity.
Named in honor of Tiger Woods’ father and his dedication to young people, the Earl Woods Scholar Program supports “high-potential students with demonstrated need and a commitment to community service.” Scholars, who start the program as college freshmen, receive financial assistance, along with exclusive internship opportunities and career development.
But the real strength of the program is its mentor network. The relationships that scholars build with their mentors are often life-changing, especially for those who are first-generation students with little or no guidance for college and career planning. Mentors act as advocates, career coaches, personal advisors and role models to help their scholars prepare for life throughout their college journeys and after graduation.
What makes the Earl Woods Scholar Program unique is the four-year commitment it asks of mentors, says Glenn. “The TGR Foundation wants mentors to be there for their scholars throughout all four years of college. Now that I’ve been in the program and working with Matthew, I’m so happy that they have that time commitment. We have time to build a very deep, meaningful relationship and I feel like it’s going to be a lifelong relationship.”
Glenn has experience with other mentoring programs, primarily through the University of Southern California, which also is his alma mater. He decided to make the four-year commitment to the Earl Woods Scholar Program because of its focus on students who come from underserved communities and who are less socioeconomically privileged.
Glenn and Matthew have only been paired for one year so far, but the impact of the program and their relationship is already clear. With support from Glenn, Matthew changed his major from psychology to business and was accepted into USC’s Marshall School of Business. As a Marshall graduate himself, Glenn offers uniquely relevant advice and insights into potential careers.
“Through Glenn, I’ve met a lot of interesting people who work in a lot of different fields and even other students here at USC,” Matthew said. “It’s added to my knowledge and it’s been interesting to learn about what people are doing in careers that I’ve never been exposed to.”
Being an Earl Woods Scholar opens many new doors for Matthew. He has attended workshops, including one about financial literacy, and socials hosted by the TGR Foundation that allow scholars and mentors to meet and mingle. Matthew and Glenn both attended the Genesis Invitational, a professional golf tournament on the PGA TOUR, hosted by the TGR Foundation. It was Matthew’s first golf tournament, which he described as both a cool experience and a good learning opportunity since “everyone in business seems to like golf.”
The mentors have opportunities to meet and share experiences too. Glenn cited group Zoom calls as particularly valuable, where mentors can ask questions and discuss ideas with each other.
When asked what they would say to someone who is considering applying for the Earl Woods Scholar program as a scholar or mentor, Glenn and Matthew each thought for a moment.
“I would say, ‘Why not do it?’ It is only a couple of hours of all the free time you have and you get so much out of it,” Matthew answered. “And you’ve got to make sure you bring energy. You’ve got to have the right attitude going into it.”
“From a mentor perspective, the four-year commitment may scare some prospective mentors, but it’s a huge strength of the program. It really is a more substantial and meaningful relationship that you develop with a young person and know that you are making an impact on them,” Glenn said. “I really feel fulfilled as a mentor and just foresee a lifelong relationship. Maybe Matthew will stop taking advice from me after he graduates USC, but at the very minimum, we’ll be talking about the Steelers for the rest of our lives.”
Learn more about the Earl Woods Scholar Program, and how to get involved, on the TGR Foundation website.