Lorena Ochoa won 27 LPGA tournaments before her retirement in 2010, including two major championships, and she earned four consecutive LPGA Player of the Year awards. She is also noted for achievements off the golf course, including her sponsorship of La Barranca Elementary School in Ochoa’s native Guadalajara, Mexico. Ochoa received the Charlie Bartlett award for her “unselfish contributions to the betterment of society” from the Golf Writers Association of America in 2011.
Meeting the Students
Ochoa first met some of La Barranca’s students at a 2005 charity golf tournament, according to a “Sports Illustrated” article. La Barranca's students in grades one through six benefit from a non-traditional teaching style that employs a variety of artistic and hands-on projects within the curriculum. “We use music and drama a lot so the kids learn how to express themselves more openly,” Ochoa said. Students also receive two meals per day.
At first, Ochoa’s involvement with the school involved donating money. In 2007, however, her Lorena Ochoa Foundation assumed full financial responsibility for La Barranca. A 2008 “Golf Week” article noted that Ochoa searched “for years” for an appropriate project for her foundation. She chose to focus on education, in part because approximately 2,000 Mexican students drop out of school every day, according to Mexican government statistics cited by “Golf Week.” Almost 10 percent of Mexicans are illiterate, and just 31.6 percent of adults have completed primary school. She began working with La Barranca after she was informed that the family-owned school was going to close.
The Personal Touch
Ochoa’s involvement with La Barranca isn’t limited to financial support. Ochoa takes a hands-on approach and influences the students directly. She’s been known to pop into La Barranca unannounced and to join the children on the basketball court or soccer field during recess, or to sit in on classes. She says she averages about five visits to the school each year.
As of 2012, Ochoa’s foundation operates a middle school and a high school to educate more than 300 students from ages 6 to 18. There are also adult classes in the evening, in subjects including the arts, athletics and computers. Almost 200 adults take classes at La Barranca, according to the foundation’s website. During the day there is mandatory parental involvement in areas such as food preparation. The school has also provided glasses to students with vision problems.