Project Blueprint gets input from minorities

The group started a minority mentoring program and scholarship fund.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Michael Scott wasn't sure how he could contribute to his community when he was first tapped to be part of the United Way's Project Blueprint.
The national program is designed to bring more minorities into the governing boards of United Way agencies and was kicked off last year in Lawrence County with five New Castle area men.
Since completing the eight week training that covers everything from Roberts Rules of Order to writing grants, Scott learned that he had a lot to give to his community.
As the only black board member on the New Castle Community Y, he felt his input was vital when board members were talking about moving many programs to a new facility in an outlying township, a spot most inner-city minorities could not reach.
His input caused the Community Y board to enhance its programs in New Castle and find transportation for inner-city kids to the township facility, he said.
Project Blueprint: Gayle Young, Lawrence County United Way executive director, said they are now starting to train a second group of men through Project Blueprint. Four attended an informational meeting last week.
She hopes with each class there will be more minority men available to help influence the county's 19 United Way funded agencies. Those agencies rely on the yearly United Way fund drive to provide anywhere from 2 percent to 60 percent of their annual budgets, she said. This year's United Way fund-raising goal is $720,000.
Men from the first Project Blueprint class are already making a dent in the community, Young said.
In addition to sitting on various executive boards of United Way agencies, they started the Lazarus Group, which is designed to tackle specific problems affecting minorities in New Castle.
They got a $1,000 grant from the New Castle-based Carolyn Knox Foundation to hold an all-day youth mentoring program in the spring and are working with employees of Department of Public Welfare to start a minority scholarship program.
"We have a specific interest in our young people. Not only to help them, but make sure they stay here. We want to influence them from within," said Eric Gunn, a Project Blueprint graduate and a second grade teacher at West Side Primary Center in New Castle.
Creating troops: They are also working to start Boy Scout Troops in New Castle.
"I can't tell you how invaluable being a Boy Scout was to me coming from the slums of Detroit. I credit the Scouts with instilling in me a sense of citizenship," said Martin Turner, a Project Blueprint graduate and president of the Lazarus Group.
Edward Bucci, the district director for the Boy Scout's Moraine Trails Council, which in includes Lawrence, Butler and Westmoreland counties, said he latched onto the Project Blueprint graduates when he learned about the program.
"I could see the first day on the job here that there was a big blank on the map [for Boy Scout Troops] -- the City of New Castle," Bucci said. "We have the best youth programs in the country. We've got to get these kids involved."
Bucci said when showed up at the Grant Street public housing complex in a Boy Scout uniform to recruit young men, he had little success.
With the help of the Lazarus Group, Scout Troops at West Side School and the Sankey Youth Center have started, and area church leaders are asking more troops begin in their buildings, he said.
"I can't make every boy join, but I want to make sure every boy has a chance to join Boy Scouts," Bucci.
Different perspective: Project Blueprint graduates say they can help influence the black community from within and represent the black community's perspective to others.
"There are a lot of things in New Castle that affect black people that we are not even aware of or have a voice in," said Michael Smallwood, another Project Blueprint graduate. "As we get into a second group. There will be more people we can get involved and the more we can get done."
Project Blueprint graduates said the training they received was invaluable.
"Being a young black man that grew up in New Castle, I know what's out on the streets. This group has helped me make a little bit of a change," said Ed Mitchell, who serves as treasurer of the Lazarus Group.
"It's about pooling resources and pooling brain power and helping out the community at large. We do bring a different perspective," Turner added.