After-school golf program helps students graduate high school and get into college

Program uses golf to get kids into college

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After-school program Midnight Golf teaches kids how to play golf, and to win in the game of life. The four-day-a-week program aims to get high school seniors into college — and has been very successful at doing so. 

Renee Fluker started the program in 2001. It has since helped over 2,500 Detroit students graduate high school, get to college, and earn scholarships. 

"These are my kids. I love every one of 'em. … I hug 'em when they come in, I hug 'em when they leave," Fluker told CBS News special correspondent James Brown.

Fluker's son Jason Malone first suggested the idea. Malone learned golf in middle school and went on to play the sport in high school and college.

"He came over to me and said, 'Mom, you've got to go back and show the kids in Detroit the game of golf,'" Fluker said.

Fluker was reluctant at first.

"I was a single parent and raising a young man, trying to put him in every type of sports it is ... and we found our passion, which was golf," she said.

Her son urged her to share their passion with other kids it could benefit.

"I said, 'You should think about it. … Look what it did for me.' It kept me on the straight and narrow … and she took it to heart," Malone said.

Fluker went to work. To build the program, she used her talents as a state social worker and borrowed thousands of dollars from her 401K. She also gathered support from local businesses, and paid a visit to the Michigan Professional Golfer's Association.

"And I'm like, 'Well, I wanna start this program in Detroit. And I need your help. I need your pros. And I need some money," Fluker told Brown of her visit to the local PGA. "And then I said -- I looked around his office, I'm like … you don't even have Tiger Woods on your wall."

Kevin Helm, executive director of the Michigan section of the PGA of America, said Fluker "was sincere and genuine, but very — forward. And I respected that." 

Helm said he wanted to get involved in the program so that he could help diversify the sport, and help young people in Detroit. As a partner, the Michigan PGA provides eight volunteer professionals every week to teach the kids.

Midnight Golf started with just 17 kids. Today, it's a free, 30-week program for 265 high school seniors — with a $2.3 million budget. The kids get dinner, golf instruction, small group mentorship from local leaders, and college counseling that culminates with a college tour in the spring.

"My goal was to always get kids in college. That was the No. 1, get 'em in college," Fluker said.

Midnight Golf has a 98% success rate at sending students to college — significantly higher than the national average.

Fluker said her secret to success is love. "We are givin' them love. … We want them to be successful."

Doctor Amber Glen, who went to Midnight Golf in 2006, says the program changed her life. 

"For me, being a participant in the Midnight Golf program was an eye opener in itself," she said. "Midnight Golf said … 'these are all of the possibilities of things that you could be.'" 

Glen played golf in college and then went on to medical school; she is now in her final year of residency and credits "Miss Renee." 

"She is a motherly figure to me," she said. "Miss Renee was personally vested in my success."

Fluker's son is now 37-years-old and serves on the board of Midnight Golf with his mom. He said he's overwhelmed by what she has accomplished. 

"Detroit is a really tough place to exist," he said. "The goal of this program was just to give 'em a chance ... It really means a lot to give back. And that all started with my mom." 

Fluker said, "we cannot lose hope in our kids." 

"Somebody just gotta believe in what they doin'. If you believe in 'em, they'll do it."