STORY AND PHOTOS BY NANCY MCGUIRE.
“God told me to do this,” Letitia Scott says, referring to her latest venture, Boyz ‘N Blue, a 12-week program she created to help boys of color navigate the world they come from, as well as the world they may be unfamiliar with. As part of her nonprofit organization, Keeping Families Connected, she seeks to dispel negative norms and to be the voice of positive encouragement in their lives. Most of the boys enrolled in the program have had a parent or close family member serving time in prison. Letitia aims to end that cycle through this program.
Currently, ten boys ages 12 to 18 are participating in the program. The boys meet weekly to discuss topics such as respect for authority, finances, leadership, excellence, the value of hard work as well as spiritual development. After reciting their pledge and a short prayer, Letitia asks the boys to show her who brought their wallet. She believes each boy should regularly carry a wallet and learn how to manage money, open a bank account and save for their futures. She believes strongly in personal accountability and rewards those boys who remember by giving each a little spending money. As she often tells the boys, “there are no excuses to being successful.”
The boys hang on Letitia’s every word, frequently repeating mantras such as “you’re not cool if you’re broke” or “nothing good comes from doing no good.” She encourages the boys in her loving, but no-nonsense way. Each meeting features a guest speaker ranging from representatives from the Dallas police force and parole officers, as well as local business owners and entrepreneurs. She recently had her husband’s personal trainer come speak to the boys about how he found his passion, turned it into a business at the age of 17 and found success. He reaffirms Letitia’s message that hard work is pivotal in life. He is frank with the boys, telling them that there will be failures along the way but, “how many times you fail and get back up is a sign of success.” She is quick to tell the boys they need book sense, street sense, common sense and spiritual sense to succeed in life.
Letitia gets on the boys’ level, quickly turning to social media to keep them engaged. She has a YouTube channel in which the boys post videos they produce. She also posts positive messages and videos regularly on her Instagram account. On the day we visited her class, she tasked the boys with the project of Googling millionaires under 21 to research their roads to success. She encourages the boys to look beyond what they are familiar with and to dream big. Letitia makes sure they know they must be willing to work hard and make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals.
Letitia sees her new program as an extension of her primary endeavor, Keeping Families Connected. This local nonprofit program arranges transportation for families to visit loved ones in area prisons and jails. She believes it is important for families to stay connected which is highly beneficial for both parties. Her mission is personal and she is intent on making sure money is not an issue in keeping families apart. She should know—she spent 18 months in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a crime, missed her family immensely, and treasured the time they could spend together.
Much of Letitia’s efforts are self-funded. She occasionally gets donations and in-kind support, but she believes so strongly in what she is doing that she often foots the bill herself. Her husband and children are integral members of her team and frequently lend a hand at Boyz ‘N Blue meetings or prison visitation trips. Setbacks don’t stand in her way.
Even losing her office space to the tornado that hit last year has not slowed Letitia down. Instead, she launched her new Boyz ‘N Blue program because the boys couldn’t wait. Her first class will graduate just as she starts her next class. Letitia wants her graduates to mentor the new group as she believes peers have a tremendous influence, both good and bad. She wants the good to lead the way.
Letitia’s passion, perseverance, and positive outlook are infectious. She wants to be the change agent in her community and make sure the next generation of boys are not destined for bad outcomes in life. Letitia is realistic but garners hope that what she is imparting on these young men will help them navigate life with the tools that help them grow to be good sons, good fathers, and good members of society.
Want to know how you can help? Visit her website at keepingfamilyconnected.org for more information.