Oklahoma City mentoring ministry helps at-risk youths
The Tradesman, part of the Oklahoma City-based Services That Assist And Redeem (STARR) ministry program, is pairing young men with positive male role models to help them take the right path toward a successful future.
By Carla Hinton | Published: October 20, 2012
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.
Scott said he is always recruiting mentors and thanks God for those he has. He said the ministry also is grateful to its community partners, including Mount Triumph Baptist Church, Tinker Air Force Junior Force Council, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, Metro Career Academy, the Oklahoma State Health Department, Work Force Oklahoma, Tinker Federal Credit Union and the Oklahoma College Assistance Program.
“Since this is about redemption, if we come together, we can change those statistics,” Scott said.
Scott said many of the young men in the program are transformed from individuals who feel alienated from society to youths who have a hope for the future. He said many of them leave the program with more stable relationships with their families, and some have gone back to school after being truant.
Kim Caldwell, of Oklahoma City, said her son Marcellus Caldwell, 15, has shown progress in the Tradesman program.
“It has helped with his communication and interaction skills, and I can see a difference as far as his outlook on life, even spiritually,” she said.
She said talking with her son's mentor, Karlin Williamson, has helped her in her role as a parent and has aided the family, which includes her husband and Marcellus' father, in general.
“Me and Karlin would talk, and he would say he was approaching things different, and it has enabled me to learn about how to approach things,” she said. “Karlin is really a blessing — caring and compassionate. He has made such a difference.”
Williamson, 36, said he saw something interesting in Marcellus: himself.
“He reminded me of me when I was a teenager, the way he was dealing with problems, the way he reacted to questions — it was familiar,” Williamson said.
He said the two have been meeting for about nine months, and the young man is doing well.
Williamson said he works with his mentees in their homes to help them develop short-term and long-term goals. He said he takes them to the local YMCA or community center to play sports together or do things such as learn to play drums when they are making progress in the program.
Williamson said, above all, it's important to help the young person realize that he has to want to improve his life. Sometimes, the closer a youth gets to completing his goal, the tougher it gets, he said.
But that's where Williamson said he comes in — to help motivate them to see that their future can be much brighter than they may have envisioned.
“I want to see them succeed,” he said. “That's what I want.”
For more on the mentoring program: http://www.tradesmanmentoring.org/