Since its inception in 2004, the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation has focused its interest primarily on supporting a variety of youth and family initiatives.
“Family is our own number-one priority,” said Phil. “Both Amy and I benefitted by being raised in our own strong, loving families and now we’re fortunate and thankful to be in a position to help others strengthen their own family bonds.”
The mission of the Foundation fund is to operate exclusively for charitable, educational and/or scientific purposes. Established as a 501(c)3, it is a non-fundraising private foundation.
“We have not solicited donations but we have received them,” said Amy. “We want those kind donors to know we’re truly grateful and that because our administrative fees are virtually nil, every cent that is contributed goes directly to our projects.”
The Foundation’s goals are met annually through involvement with Start Smart and the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy. Beyond those nationally recognized efforts, the Foundation is active in supporting a wide variety of smaller but no less important causes.
The sun isn’t yet up on a late summer morning when busses start rolling into the parking lot. Waiting for them are Phil and Amy Mickelson and volunteers bracing for five hours of fun for them and fantasy for 1,500 of San Diego County’s neediest schoolchildren. It’s the start of another Start Smart Saturday, when dreams come true for both the Mickelsons and the kids. They’ll be treated to a back-to-school shopping spree and the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation will be the richer for it.
“We’re just very fortunate to be in a position to help people who really need help,” said Phil. “We couldn’t put a price on the reaction of the children and their parents and it’s gratifying to know how much this means to so many families through the year.”
The Foundation established Start Smart in 2005 to help improve self-esteem in San Diego County’s first- through fourth-graders, and in turn improve their work in the classroom. With the help of the San Diego County Office of Education and elementary school principals and teachers, children are selected to participate in the basis of need and achievement.
“The thoughtfulness and generosity shown by the Mickelsons over the years has been overwhelming on several levels,” said Randy Ward, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools. “By providing needy students with new school clothes and supplies the Mickelsons ensure thousands of children are ready to learn, which is one of the most important factors in a child’s education. Star Smart students are eager to go to school, resulting in better attendance and achievement. Beyond that, Start Smart has a tremendous impact on the relationship between school and homes, which is another key element in the ultimate success of students. San Diego County is incredibly fortunate to have partners like Phil and Amy Mickelson.”
At Start Smart, the Phil and Amy greet nearly every visitor. Each child has a list of items available: jackets, sweaters, shirts and blouses, slacks and skirts, shoes, socks and underwear. Each pupil also selects a backpack full of school supplies. In the store, the Mickelsons’ children, parents and a number of friends and volunteers, take on chores ranging from restocking items to helping kids shop to directing the dozens of school busses that drop off and pick up the kids, their parents and teachers.
This year the venue moves to a Target store, where the staff will spend most of Friday night rearranging the shopping area and help assure the program runs smoothly through the morning.
“We are just thrilled our partnership with Target,” said Amy. “The people there have been on board for months and they seem almost as excited about the day as we are. It’s just amazing to see not only the impact it has on the kids as they’re shopping, but also the positive effect the day has on them in school through the year. The teachers’ stories are so heartwarming. We can see the joy in the parents’ faces. Since we started Start Smart we have said the day is one of our very favorites.”
In 2005 the Foundation partnered with ExxonMobil to develop the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, an intense, five-day curriculum that gives 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers innovative tools to help motivate their young students in math and science. The Academy works with the National Science Teachers Association and Math Solutions to provide curriculum that supports teacher networking and development in inquiry-based instruction.
“Developing tomorrow’s bright stars in math and science is essential if our country is going to maintain its leadership position in those fields,” said Phil. “Our children deserve the very best in math and science education, our nation needs it, and helping teachers teach seemed like the best way to approach a national challenge that has to be met.”
To date, the Academy has trained 2,600 teachers from across the nation in its six years, hosting 600 participants each summer. A majority of teachers are selected by school administrators in cities where Phil plays on Tour and where ExxonMobil has a significant presence. In addition, 200 teachers are selected each year from applications submitted at www.sendmyteacher.com, a website where students and administrators can nominate math and science teachers for the Academy.
Phil and Amy annually attend one of the sessions to meet with teachers, administrators and the media. They take part in a various learning experiments and address the gathering, thanking them for their participation and encouraging them to use their newfound skills. In 2008, they also appeared before the House Education and Labor Committee in Washington D.C. to advocate increased government awareness and spending to support math and science education.
“There are a number of things that go into successful learning,” said Amy, “but our most effective way of ensuring that is to support the teachers. It’s so inspiring to us to see how dedicated these men and women are to their kids. Our goal is to show them how much we appreciate their efforts by giving them innovative ways to inspire their students, to help them understand science isn’t mysterious or difficult and in fact it can be fun.”
If you know of a teacher in the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade who deserves this opportunity, go to www.sendmyteacher.com. Nominations for the 2011 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy are open until October 31, 2010.