Kai Rullan was one of the quieter students in his class at The First Tee but he took each lesson of his coaches to heart. Now four years after becoming an alumnus of the program, Kai is using the lessons he learned on the course to pursue his dream of becoming a trained chef. Kai recently graduated from the culinary arts program at Seattle Central and has found a way to make a career doing what he loves the most. We asked Kai to reflect on how his experiences at The First Tee made his aspirations his reality. Here is what he had to say:
“My teenage years were some of my hardest times. I had to learn to make decisions and hoped they were the right ones. After two weeks in a traditional school, I transitioned to online school. It was a very different experience for me and it was a roller coaster ride of emotions, triumphs, lessons, and failures –mostly failures, academically and personally. But those were the years I felt defined my character the most, and helped me overcome my failures. They were also the years I spent my summers as an intern for The First Tee.
The First Tee taught me many things growing up. I always thought it was odd how you can relate the game of golf to life, but it does work out. When making your first shot, know your options, envision your goal, and build contingency plans. When taking that swing, keep your eye on the ball, focus on the task at hand and don’t get distracted. When putting on the green, calculate, line up, and be patient because this is the most important shot. If you miss, keep trying. This all applies to life as well–know your dreams, plan your goals, don’t stray from the path you intended, and if you miss, just keep trying.
I believe these lessons brought me through high school and beyond, mainly due to The First Tee Nine Core Values that the program instilled in me. I honor every single core value I learned but I particularly value integrity. Integrity is not what other people tell you that you are. Integrity is who you decide to be and how you treat yourself and others. Your integrity tells others what you do when no one is watching. It can be as small as picking up trash or stepping over it. It can be as big as helping someone without hesitation or remaining a bystander like everybody else.
The First Tee program and the people involved have helped me turn my failures into successes. I am always grateful for what I’ve learned and experienced and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
As for my plans, even out of school I’m still learning and that’s something that will never stop. I currently work in a hotel downtown and in a new restaurant in Pike Place. When the time is appropriate, I plan on owning my own establishment here in Seattle, first as a food truck and eventually in a building.”