Ethan Scott's promise kept

Ethan Scott's promise kept

Charlotte nonprofit turns young man’s sorrow into triumph

Ethan Scott lost his heart when his grandmother died. As an elementary school student in Charlotte, N.C., he couldn’t process her death or the grief and pain. He directed his anger and frustration toward God – and other people.

“I felt like he took the most important thing from me,” Scott, 19, said. "I started to build these barriers. I didn’t want to play with other kids. When something got me mad, I’d just black out and flip over desks.”

He even joined a gang in middle school, continuing to have little time or patience for anything or anyone. But in the first summer of his work with a Christian 

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The foundation provides small grants, typically under $10,000, to programs that help strengthen and improve the development of local communities. In the Charlotte area, Duke Energy gave about 25 of these grants through its foundation in 2015.

For more details on the foundation and the grants it provides to communities the company serves, visit the website.

nonprofit called UrbanPromise Charlotte, he regained his heart and humanity while developing into a leader. The organization’s StreetLeader program helped him heal while meeting its threefold approach: reach a child, raise a leader, restore a community.

Reach a child

Founded in 1988 in Camden, N.J., UrbanPromise focuses on providing young people with the support needed to succeed academically, grow spiritually and develop into leaders who can bring positive change to their communities. The Duke Energy Foundation gave the group a $5,000 grant for the StreetLeader program for the 2015-2016 school year. UrbanPromise is just one of the many organizations that benefit from small Duke Energy Foundation grants annually. 

The money allowed 25 teenagers like Scott to participate in StreetLeader. The teens act as counselors, tutors and mentors for the children who attend after-school programs and summer camps.

“As part of their own development, these youth leaders are helping younger students with reading and other subjects. It’s a compelling part of the program,” said Shawn Heath, president of the Duke Energy Foundation. “Education, including reading proficiency, is key for our young people.” 

StreetLeaders receive year-round employment, training, tutoring, college preparation and mentoring to help them succeed both inside and outside of the program. In turn, they are challenged to use their influence to make positive changes in the lives of their elementary and middle school counterparts by serving in UrbanPromise’s AfterSchool program.

He understood what his ‘why’ was in life. You can’t put a price tag on that.

One hundred percent of StreetLeader’s first class of seniors – including Scott – graduated from high school in 2015 and enrolled in postsecondary education.

Raise a leader

UrbanPromise Charlotte Executive Director Jimmy McQuilkin saw the potential of a Charlotte program after he witnessed the success of UrbanPromise in Honduras. The leadership of the Honduran students reminded him of the high school students he instructed as a Teach For America corps member in Charlotte.

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“I was working with the most amazing high schoolers I had ever worked with before,” he said. “They just had all this leadership potential but rarely had that leveraged outside of the school building within their own neighborhoods.”

Restore a community

McQuilkin launched the program in the fall of 2013. It was the ninth UrbanPromise program in the world. He gave a recruitment speech for the program at Scott’s high school, Philip O. Berry Academy of Technology, in Charlotte. Scott, in the audience, said he heard nothing about mentoring kids or serving his community.

“All I heard was ‘money,’ he said. He was accepted into the program, but he didn’t immediately embrace its mission. He arrived late. He didn’t interact with peers and he paid little attention to younger students.

Scott’s job evaluations reflected his indifference. He had a choice: Embrace the leadership role in the StreetLeader program or face the consequences.

He began arriving early. He interacted with the kids. Even now, three years later, he is a college student at Charlotte’s Johnson C. Smith University, studying to be a counselor and still encouraging youths who have entered the StreetLeader program.

“For Ethan, watching him go through that – he got life, in many ways,” McQuilkin said. “He understood what his ‘why’ was in life. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

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