Nonprofit helps Linden teens redirect their lives with personal, professional skills
Miguel "Geno" Tucker hopes to redirect the lives of Linden teens with curated programming and support.
There’s a lot of wasted talent on the streets of Linden, says Miguel “Geno” Tucker, executive director of Remember Us Urban Scouts. “They pay CEOs millions for a skill set these kids in urban communities naturally possess,” he says. “These kids have to think critically and solve problems every day to stay alive.”
Tucker knows all about life in the streets of Linden from first-hand experience. A self-described street hustler, tragic events in his family helped him change direction, reassess his future and create the Linden-based nonprofit in 2019. Remember Us Urban Scouts offers entrepreneurial, employment and educational life skills to help teens break the cycle of poverty and change their family and community for the better.
Tucker, 33, says he grew up “doing what I needed to do to survive ... I was young and wild.”
His favorite cousin, Reginald Ivery, Jr., was fatally shot in 2013; his nephew, Henry Green, died in a shootout with two plainclothes Columbus police officers in June 2016.
The officers were found not guilty for the shooting by a federal jury. Now, the family is in the midst of a civil lawsuit against Columbus police.
“That’s what created the new ‘Geno,’” Tucker says. “I had to quit the streets.” He became involved with the People’s Justice Project, joined the local carpenters union and enrolled at Columbus State Community College to focus on entrepreneurship.
For a class assignment he wrote a business plan for a hypothetical nonprofit organization that would provide resources, educational programs and paid-work opportunities. “The professor told me this was a good concept and might actually work,” Tucker says, adding he began connecting with other local nonprofits doing similar work and started applying for grants.
Tucker worked with IMPACT Community Action, My Brother’s Keeper Village and Franklinton Cycle Works and began building programs. “Geno’s approach is healing and is centered on helping these kids find their spark and a reason why they need to do well in school and graduate high school,” says Kay Wilson, IMPACT’s former director of community engagement and advancement. “He’s an advocate for the community.”
One of the nonprofit’s first initiatives was a landscaping program that has grown to include a curriculum of safety, customer service, equipment maintenance and landscaping techniques. “The idea was to teach entrepreneurship and how to start a business,” Tucker says, adding the teens in the program are paid to do landscaping work for Linden residents who might not otherwise be able to afford landscaping services.
“We started it in the middle of COVID and nobody had the money to pay for that, especially a lot of seniors and single moms,” he says. “All my youth get paid for training and their work because the one thing I know is if you’re growing up in a household without financial means you feel an obligation to help and the majority of the time it’s not a job at Kroger, it’s selling drugs and robberies … my vision it to create a way out for these kids.”
The nonprofit also provided residents with information on how to participate in the 2020 United States census and register to vote. Tucker created an after-school tutoring program and a hairstyling program that includes the basics of braiding and shampooing. Again, the idea is to help young people find a career path.
Franklinton Cycle Works has donated bikes to Remember Us Urban Scouts, which hosts monthly rides in different neighborhoods in the city. Participants learn safe cycling and the basics of bike maintenance.
Wilson says she has watched Tucker listen, learn and build programs. “There’s a brilliance in these young people,” she says. “Even when you can’t see it in traditional ways, it’s there. Geno helps them create their own uplifting story rather than a destructive story.”
“This is what God put me on the earth to do,” Tucker says. “To help these young people navigate their way to a better life, a life they didn’t even know they could have.”
Steve Wartenberg is a freelance writer.
Remember Us Urban Scouts
6600 Busch Blvd., Suite 200
Mission: To help Linden youth develop personal and professional life skills.
Executive director: Miguel “Geno” Tucker
Funding: $300,000 in 2021