My blog this month will be a little longer than usual. Who I introduce is well worth the length.
Movers and Shakers in Education…are not always inside the classroom or connected to an educational institution. The first time I had the privilege of meeting Ken Scrubbs was back in 2003. I was charged with finding out all I could about successful community outreach programs to get a grasp on how grass roots efforts worked and developed. I pulled together a group of legislative officials and asked advice on where to start? Who do I model after? Every avenue led back to the work being done in Leesburg, Florida by Ken Scrubbs (known to the world as “Pastor Ken”). Little did I know I was about to be introduced to the Piped Piper.
Shortly thereafter, we were both slated to present at a national College Board conference. I clearly remember fumbling through all my papers, as I was walking through the corridors of the hotel, trying to figure out which room housed his break out session on “Establishing Grass Roots Efforts.” I heard a Barry White kind of voice and peeked in to see a very tall man with the kind of stature and presence that commands attention. I nervously sat through his presentation, knowing I would have to introduce myself at the end to request his help. By the time things finished, I sat astonished by how many organizations he had pulled together to form total community engagement, protection, advancement and oversight for the children in his county. I had a million questions and waited until every single person left to ask him a few. After asking one question after the next, he stopped me and said…
“Michelle. Do you have some time?”
“Well, sure do you mind giving me a few tips on how you have pulled all this together?”
“That’s why I’m asking you if you have some time. Its better if you could see it in action.”
We conversed a bit longer and decided on a tour the very next morning. I had no idea what I was in for.
We met in the parking lot of the church he Pastor’s. Little did I know I was about to take a life changing tour. I had no expectations and no idea where we were going. We pulled up to an elementary school where he explained he had been called by the Principal. I was instantly confused.
“There are a few children here that she needs me to speak to.”
Well I obviously didn’t know what that meant so I just followed alongside of him hoping I was invited. As we passed into the first public elementary school gate, the children were walking in lines to their next activity. “Pastor Ken!!!…Pastor Ken!!!!…” Literally the man was a celebrity. All the teachers were waving and the students were all instantly trying to straighten up. He hugged and high fived as well as gave a few stern looks along our walk. We arrived outside of a classroom. When we walked in, the somewhat rowdy room instantly fell silent. Pastor Ken walked around the room looking at the board and desks and counted tickets and all kinds of things. He asked the teacher who had been behind in homework and they had an open discussion on the order of the room. He walked up to the front, called a few names up who had earned a certain number of tickets and handed them passes to Disney World. This had been a promise given that the teacher explained the kids never thought would be followed through on. The kids were ecstatic. One boy in-particular was an obvious behavior problem. Pastor Ken called the child to the back of the room where I was and he introduced me to the young man. He told the young man he would see him later. These words made the child tear up, his body went silent, and he returned to his seat without a word. I was totally confused.
We had a chat with the principal on the way out and headed on to the local high school. In transit we passed by a van and stopped to have a conversation with a “Ms. Linda” who said she was on her way to pick up children from the elementary school we had just left to bring them to the aftercare program Pastor Ken had started. He gave her some directives on what they needed to do and who else she needed to pick up and where. I didn’t say much. I found out later that Ms Linda was his wife. On the ride to the school Pastor Ken told me about his vision for a center for all kids to have available to them afterschool that was seamless from what they were doing in their day time school. I asked many many questions on how he planned on accomplishing such a huge task. Thinking about the coordination alone gave me a headache.
We walked into the high school’s cafeteria where students were in small tutoring groups. He explained that he had set this program up, applied for a grant, and paid the teachers after school to take additional time with their students. He called out five girls’ names who started our way while teachers were all waving hello and coming to tell Pastor Ken about progress being made. We all walked toward the principal’s office. He directed me and the five girls to one room.
“I have a meeting with the principal for the next 20 minutes. Michelle, I want you to explain to these girls how you made it through high school and college.”
I stood there like…well……ok! I explained my story of being adopted and my rebellious teen years and lessons I learned to the girls and could tell my words were making a difference. Leaving the school, I felt such a sense of accomplishment just from having that one conversation. We got back in the car and headed to the aftercare program he had in the beginning stages. I saw a lot of the same students I had seen during the day and was greeted with hugs of my own. A few hours of tutoring later, we were headed out that evening to the local town hall meeting pulled together at the local library. Each school had the principal or assistant principal present along with tutors, the business community and of course…food. Pastor Ken led the meeting to explain how he wanted all teachers participating in the aftercare program to receive the same training and set up total transparency and communication between feeder schools for easy transition for the students AND the teachers. The business community was there to support with food donations and supply donations and many other contributions were given up. All this happening in one typical day had me in a daze.
As we left the meeting he asked me if I now understood how to engage a community. I did. On the way back to retrieve my car we passed a strip where he pointed out the free clinic established where local nurses and Dr.s volunteered their time, a warehouse of furniture for those in need, a homeless shelter, a woman’s place, rehabilitation and half way homes for those coming from prison and then he said,
“Oh! We have one final stop!”
It was dark and late, and I wondered what in the world we were doing in front of a home. I again walked along side as Pastor Ken rattled on the home’s door. As the door opened, I recognized the young boy in front of me from the elementary school. I remember how he looked when Pastor Ken said “I’ll see you later”. I had no idea that he was being literal. We walked in and Pastor Ken had a firm talk with the young man and his mother about the happenings in school. I was secretly beaming on the inside, as I knew the single mother on the other end was, to have someone take an active interest in her child. As we were walking back to the car I asked….
“Does he go to your church?...No….Is he in your aftercare program?....No…he is a kid in need of a male role model.”
It was truly an amazing moment for me.
This single visit transformed my thinking on community engagement and the power of one. One man took the time to see the need, laid out a vision, and was relentless in trail blazing a community to make a better life for all the children he could reach.
Fast forward ten years and today Pastor Ken is known all over the country. He has met the challenges of meeting the needs of others both at the grass root level and in the public service arena. He has served as a panelist for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiative Conference, Served as Chairman of The State of Florida Drop-Out Prevention Task Force after being appointed by Department of Education Commissioner John Wynn; Served after being appointed by Governor Charlie Crist as Board Member to New Florida Disaster Relief Recovery Fund; Also served after being appointed by the Governor Charlie Crist as a board Member of the One Church One Child Board. He has received infinite national, State and community recognitions and meritorious awards to include, the United States Attorney General National Volunteer of the Year Award In Washington D.C. for his works in Federal Prisons; Special Congressional Recognition by United States Senator Bill Nelson for service in the community; Distinguish Service Award for the Department of Criminal Justice; Selected by the Florida Monthly Magazine as One of Twenty-two most Intriguing Floridians who excelsin service to others. He is also featured in the author of Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox for his extraordinary work in prisons, employing the Purpose Driven Life, as one of his tools for ministry.
His dream materialized in the opening of The Genesis Center where he currently oversees:
- The Micah Project (Mentoring Is Changing a Heart)
- 21st Century Learning Initiative (after school tutoring)
- Director of the Lake County Neighborhood Accountability Board
- Director of the Peer Mediation Programs through the Department of Juvenile Justice
- Conducts weekly Purpose Driven Life classes at Coleman Federal Prison, which the largest Federal Prison in the United States.
I encourage you all to take a visit to The Genesis Center. You will learn from the best and be blessed to see:
- A garden tended by all the kids
- A robotics/ STEM lab
- Music class
- Computers and whiteboards in action
- A culinary arts program
- Mr. Bills workshops- learning carpentry, plumbing and electrical work
- STEP team
- Backpack Program (Every Friday backpacks go home full of food)
Thank you, Ken Scrubbs, for your relentless commitment to our children. Your time and talents have changed many lives and you have single handedly transformed an entire communities future.
For those interested in learning more, we will be hosting a webinar series taught by Ken Scrubbs to showcase how schools can engage their community to build partnerships with your neighborhoods, government and businesses. Please leave your name and email address in the comments section below if you would like to receive a link to sign up.