The Rev. Gerald Scott, of Oklahoma City, is sure his life would be different without the positive influence of several men who helped nurture him to adulthood.
Scott, 51, said he fit several statistics associated with at-risk youths because he was raised by his mother after his parents divorced when he was 9, and then his father died when he was 14.
He said he became a leader at his high school and went on to graduate from college, partly due to the aid of men including a local pastor, a high school history teacher and a school administrator who each saw leadership potential in him “even though I didn't see it in myself.”
Scott said he started the Tradesman mentoring ministry in April 2011 to provide godly mentors to young men whose circumstances are less than ideal.
The mentoring project is part of Scott's Services That Assist And Redeem, or STARR, ministry program.
Scott, a licensed and ordained minister, said the Tradesman ministry is now focused on helping youths on probation with the Oklahoma County Juvenile Justice Bureau. He said about 36 young men are in the program, and they are paired with about 10 local volunteers who want to give back to youths in much the same way the mentors of Scott's childhood helped him.
“They didn't call it mentoring back then, but that's what it was,” Scott said.
“Our mission with Tradesman is to enrich the lives of Oklahomans to help them get better.”
Scott said Oklahoma City Thunder NBA star Kevin Durant says that all the time.
“Anytime he gets in front of the microphone he says, ‘I just want to get better.' Well, so many people want an opportunity to get better, an opportunity to change their lives,” Scott said.
Scott said the premise behind the Tradesman program is biblical, particularly Malachi 4:6, which says, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Scott said the ministry's volunteers come from all walks of life and become father figures to the young men with whom they spend one to two hours a week at the youth's home or at a location in the community. He said many at-risk youth have problems with authority, and the mentoring program aims to educate them about the role of authority figures in their lives.
Scott said the Tradesman curriculum is called Positive Youth Development, a juvenile justice curriculum that includes spirituality as a component. He said the Tradesman ministry expands on that to teach young men biblical virtues to guide them in the future. Scott said the mentors teach the youths attributes such as integrity, accountability and sincerity, from what he called “the wisdom chapter” — Proverbs 4.
“The fields are ripe for them to have that information poured into them,” he said.
Scott, who attends The Gate Church, said mentors working with youths in the juvenile justice system help the young men create an individual development plan designed to help them successfully complete their probation and build on their assets. The mentors help the youths set positive goals such as completing high school, attending college or taking steps toward some type of job apprenticeship.