Boys and their families who choose an education at The Welsh Academy will be part of a school community in which days are longer to allow more time for teacher/student relationship building; interdisciplinary, project-based learning; and preparation for the academic rigors of high school.
Part of that learning is done through affinity courses.
According to Dan Dixon, S.J., "Affinity courses are hands-on opportunities for learning a new skill or developing an interest."
These courses are taught by members of the Saint Ignatius community, including current faculty or staff and alumni. Through the affinity courses, the Welsh Academy students begin to gain a sense of what they have a talent for and what catches their imagination.
"Relationship is at the heart of the affinity courses," Dixon says. "We want our boys to develop meaningful relationships with many people in our Saint Ignatius community. It is empowering and affirming for someone to have the opportunity to share a talent or skill that they truly love. We believe that the encounters in these affinity courses will foster in our Welsh boys a deeper sense of belonging."
These relationships will hopefully continue to develop for The Welsh Academy students who transition to Saint Ignatius for high school. Examples of courses include cooking, rugby, entrepreneurship and golf.
Relationships are at the heart of the foundation of the golf affinity course. It all began with a Saint Ignatius High School alumnus, Joseph Timko '81. Timko lost his courageous battle with cancer in September 2018. He was a proud graduate of Saint Ignatius High School and John Carroll University, and he was passionate about golf. He looked forward to each and every opportunity to play the game.
In his memory, his family and friends hosted the Joe Timko Memorial Golf Outing in August 2019 in order to raise money for a non-profit organization. Because of his love for golf and for children, the organization they chose to receive the proceeds from the outing was The First Tee of Cleveland
"Joe was a family man," says Kelly. "He always went out of his way to be at any family function. And it was always about the kids." Kelly describes Joe as a man who made everyone around him want to be a better person. That's why when she and her family learned of The First Tee of Cleveland, they knew it was a perfect match.
The First Tee of Cleveland impacts, influences and inspires Northeast Ohio youth ages 6 to 18 by empowering them to build strong character assets using Life Skills, Core Values and Healthy Habits. It is one of 140 chapters of The First Tee, a national initiative begun in 1997.
The generous donation from the Joe Timko Memorial Golf Outing made it possible to fund The First Tee's National School Program for The Welsh Academy.
Designed for elementary and middle school age students, the National School Program introduces students to the game of golf, The First Tee Nine Core Values™, and Nine Healthy Habits™ during physical education classes. This program creates an environment where young people experience the lifelong sport of golf while learning basic golf motor skills and the inherent values of the game, including health-enhancing habits.
A faithful man who was committed to his family and his faith, Joe embodied the core values that are taught as part of the National School Program: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
"Joe was all of that," says Kelly. "He lived his life in a way that made his family proud." Now his legacy carries on through the young men at The Welsh Academy who will not only learn a sport, but who will learn values that build character.
Until this experience, none of The Welsh Academy students had ever stepped foot on a course. Through The First Tee of Cleveland
, a group of five students had the chance to practice on a driving range and even play a few holes at the Washington Learning Center.
"My initial intent in teaching this class was to share my love of the game and have the boys learn some of the life lessons I believe golf teaches; things such as self-control, hard work, perseverance, and honesty," moderator of the course and Major Gift Officer Marc Milkie says. "In the end, the bigger value was the relationships I developed with my students. Now, as I encounter them periodically during the day, I can actually sense a change in each one of them personally, as a result of their time at The Welsh Academy."