L.E.a.R.N. Network's annual summer fundraiser helps raise money for college-bound seniors

Compared to the Oregon Latino Basketball Tournament in March, the Latino Educational and Recreational Network’s (L.E.a.R.N.) Oregon Latino Golf Tournament is much more subdued.

L.E.a.R.N. hosts both fundraiser events to help raise scholarships for high school seniors in the Willamette Valley.

While the 24-year-old basketball tournament attracts hundreds of participants to compete on dozens of teams across the Gervais School District campus, the fourth annual golf tournament slated for July 26 is slowly growing into a more casual counterpart to raise money for local students while connecting with businesses and volunteers in the area.

“It’s a fun networking outing,” tournament director and L.E.a.R.N. committee member Henry Bustamante said. “We get some teams out there, and it’s been just a good day of golf and friendship.”

The tournament came about a few years back as L.E.a.R.N. Board President Rolando Ramirez and friends were trying to get other Latinos introduced to golf and saw a local golf tournament as a non-competitive way to do so while raising money for the program.

“A lot of our members and participants in our tournament may be first-time players or are still trying to learn the game, so we want to keep it as less intimidating as possible,” Ramirez said. “We want to make it friendlier so people get out there and have fun, but at the same time we can raise money for a good cause.”

The tournament originally began at Oak Knoll Golf Course, located between Salem and Dallas, but the group decided this year to move the event to Evergreen Golf Course in Mount Angel.

Not only is the new venue closer to the Gervais area where many of L.E.a.R.N.’s supporters live, but it continues to provide a relaxed golf atmosphere for those who may be daunted by a much more prestigious course.

“That’s why we chose the Mount Angel venue. It’s a nice golf course and competitive, but it’s not like Pumpkin Ridge, Eagle Crest or Creekside,” Ramirez said. “I think it’s going to be a great location and a great opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship.”

While Evergreen is a 9-hole course, the tournament will take participants through the course twice to get the full 18-hole experience.

“We’re still going to play 18 holes,” Ramirez said. “On the second round, we’ll start people off on different tees, so people will get a different perspective on each hole.”

The tournament costs $250 for each team of four. Registration includes green fees, a golf cart and lunch, and all proceeds from the event will go toward L.E.a.R.N.’s college scholarship fund. L.E.a.R.N. first began awarding scholarships to Latino youths as an attempt to encourage local minorities to seek education after high school.

“They often don’t get a lot of opportunities or know a lot of ways to get money for college, so we wanted to focus primarily on the Latino and Latina youth,” Ramirez said.

But in an effort to be more inclusive, L.E.a.R.N. opened up their scholarships to all youths in the Willamette Valley who volunteer with the organization or participate in the basketball our golf tournaments.

“Honestly, if there’s a child that needs to go to college, wants to go to college and applies for our scholarship, preference is always given to those who participate,” Ramirez said.

The scholarships are relatively small in scope compared to the rising costs of higher education. L.E.a.R.N. provides several awards of $500 each year to graduating high school students, but Ramirez hopes those rewards grow each year.

“My hope is to someday be able to offer a full ride to somebody,” Ramirez said.

The scholarships are given to students based on a combination of participation in school, but also community service

“It’s not all on academics,” Bustamante said. “It is also with community involvement, things that you’ve done with different organizations that also get taken into consideration.”

To volunteer or sign up a team for the fourth annual Oregon Latino Golf Tournament, go to, call Bustamante at 503-779-7600 or call Ramirez at 503-881-5869.

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