By Frank Wynn
Together We Can Strengthen
Families in Mississippi
As I handed Eric Scott the plaque, I could see tears begin to well up in his eyes. His hands shook just a little, unnoticed by the group gathered in his honor. His head held a little higher as we posed for a picture, Mr. Scott was proud—perhaps even confident—in that moment. Families First for Mississippi just recognized Mr. Scott as its Volunteer of the Year. Just seven short months ago, Mr. Scott came to the Mississippi Community Education Center’s Families First for Mississippi Resource Center looking for help. The person I met then in no way resembles the man I work with today.
In April 2017, Eric Scott and I met for the first time. Mr. Scott was unemployed and looking for a job. Due to illness and unforeseen circumstances, he was unable to work for several months. Mr. Scott’s family member, Gloria Robin Scott, helped care for him and nurse him back to health during those difficult times. When he became healthy, he wanted to return to work but had difficulty with the transition. The Mississippi Community Education Center’s Fatherhood Program assisted Mr. Scott by providing reassurance, job readiness training, and assistance searching and applying for jobs online.
MCEC’s program staff provided one-on-one assistance to Mr. Scott while also teaching him how to better navigate computers and the Internet. He applied for many jobs online and remained patient when there was no response. His positive attitude didn’t waiver. He knew that with his work history and dedication, he would be given another chance of employment and self-sufficiency. In late June 2017, he received an interview for a position as an at-risk youth mentor and accepted the position soon after.
After completing the program, Mr. Scott felt compelled to give back. He asked to volunteer as a means of helping other participants. Initially, he would simply come to the program after leaving work, spending an hour with participants. “Coming to the center and asking for help was the hardest part. If I had one piece of advice, it would be to come to class and never give up. I knew that the staff would help me,” shared Scott. Each day he would help with online employment applications and prepare them for interview skills. Although Mr. Scott would shy away from being called one, he was a mentor and role model to others that came through the program. He’d speak to the participants offering words of encouragement and support, by simply being there to show others that he cared for them and that the program works.
Over time, Mr. Scott expanded his efforts. He helped with reading and writing, picked up participants to bring them to the center, gave rides to job interviews when transportation wasn’t available, and even helped an individual get a copy of their birth certificate! His willingness to give was unending, driven by the desire to give back in the same way that others had given to him. He found that by helping those in need, he was fulfilled. Mr. Scott became the program’s real-life success story.
Families First works to provide individuals like Eric Scott a hand up. The program works to stabilize the family through education, job readiness, family life skills, financial literacy, and parenting. Our goal is to work with the whole family in addressing roadblocks to success. Eric is a prime example of the possibilities available.
“The opportunities that Families First has provided, not only to me but to others, are needed. The program gives us an outlet to try to find employment and to take care of our families. I am thankful for their assistance and unwavering support. It’s the reason I come back to help others.” – Eric Scott
Eric is a proud father of two, teenage daughter Erica Scott, and young son Braylon Scott. Eric continues to volunteer with Families First for Mississippi and has started a Men’s Support group at the center in Jackson, MS. He actively promotes the fatherhood program and other services in the community.
“My experience as a Families First trainer has been great. The parents I work with have dispelled the myth that they don’t want to be good parents. From mothers that are intrigued by a man’s point of view on parenting or fathers that need a different outlook on being a father, they all genuinely want to be better parents but just need a little help.” ~ Frank Wynn
Frank Wynn is the Families First For Mississippi Fatherhood Program Coordinator.