This February, at the request of reading teacher Nan Thomas, Pastor Gerald Duncan of Prayers of Faith Outreach Ministries and Innovative Dads visited MYcroSchool Gainesville to speak with interested young men. Pastor Duncan’s outreach ministry has a mission to aid in the restoration of communities. A quote embraced by his ministry is I Corinthians 9:22 “Becoming all things to all men that we by all means might save some.” According to Gerald Duncan, “We are dedicated to walking in love.”
The pastor brought his love to MYcroSchool’s male community, touching on issues such as drug sales, domestic violence, making better choices, accountability, education, and the importance of fathers in the lives of their children.
He talked to the young men about making the best possible choices so they can proclaim, “I am the first one from my family to graduate from high school, from college, and to buy my own house.”
He spoke more specifically about the mistakes parents make, and the single parent families into which many of the MYcroSchool young men were born; when the male role model is absent, there is often a negative effect. Only 12 male students from both the morning and afternoon sessions raised their hands when asked how many of them were being raised by active fathers. Pastor Duncan later asked all students in attendance how they learn to treat and love women when they do not see their own parents interact in the home; from the males, there was a resounding “from TV.”
As Pastor Duncan told the young men, “There’s no right way of doing wrong.” He sold drugs in both Miami and Gainesville, was shot three times, defied death after swallowing cocaine to avoid arrest, spent years in prison, chose not to get an education or to get drug treatment, and had even put a gun to his head in an attempt to end his problems, but it was upon his last prison stay that he decided to change his life.
He found God, earned his GED, and enrolled in college, later graduating. Duncan stated, “I decided that I wanted to be a different person. I stopped making excuses.” He indicated that he had “carried hate and rage in his heart since childhood” and it was his final chance to better himself. He no longer made “excuse after excuse” that due to the bridges he had burned he would not be successful.
Pastor Duncan’s life change benefited not only himself. It included setting up a Gainesville neighborhood program for the area’s youth, complete with computers. He created “Innovative Dads,” a program designed to work with young fathers who want to be involved in the lives of their children, regardless of religious faith or lack thereof. The same neighborhoods the pastor once sold drugs in, he now works within to reach their youth. He is “giving back’” to those in the neighborhoods where he once made his living off the sale of drugs and the addiction it often created.
Duncan spoke with MYcroSchool males about choosing to either be a follower or a leader, and the importance of making a choice to get an education. He stated, “If you think people working with you at school don’t care about you, you’ll learn quickly how much the outside world doesn’t care about you, your problems, or your excuses.” He went on to praise the MYcroSchool concept and staff.
Other areas touched on were ‘safe sex’ and abstinence; he reminded the young men to put their focus on education. An unplanned pregnancy by a partner may thwart or, at minimum, slow success. Education should be their goal. The reality is that without a high school diploma, “the alternative for most is juvenile facilities, jail, and prison.”
According to a 2009 Northeastern University study, incarceration rates for those between the ages of 16-24 who dropped out of high school were 63 times higher than among college grads. Close to one of every ten male high school dropouts was institutionalized in 2006-2007.
Pastor Duncan suggested the students appreciate those at the school who are trying to steer them in the right direction so they have a chance; they don’t have to like their instructors (or like them all the time), but they need to understand that what they probably don’t like is that they are being held accountable. Being held accountable is imperative to fostering a successful attitude.
At the close of his presentation, the males of MYcroSchool were told that they can “hit him up on Facebook’” should they need someone to talk to or to simply listen. Young fathers from MYcroSchool and others from the local community are always welcome at Innovative Dads’ meetings, which are held at 7 p.m. the first and third Thursday of each month at Prayers by Faith located at 429 NW 4th St. in Gainesville.Nan Thomas is the Reading Teacher at MYcroSchool Gainesville.