The pilot program is expected to have about 25 youths participating and is based on a program in Indianapolis.
Mathews, a Hamilton native, got her nickname when she started playing junior high basketball during the rookie season of NBA great Shaquille O’Neal. She lived in Indianapolis for 12 years and learned of the program while pastoring there before returning to Hamilton to pastor a church.
“It was a great program and I knew it would work here,” she said. “I think people are excited in having something for youth ages 13 to 18 to get them out and about, put some money in their pockets and plant seeds for the future by doing positive things.”
Mathews said the youths have to apply to be selected for the program that will meet from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays. During the program, youths will have breakfast sponsored by Truth and Life Community Church; participate in weekly personal and job skills training as well as financial literacy mentoring and some spiritual direction; have lunch served by Living Waters Ministries; and earn $25 per week for picking up litter and working with volunteers and mentors to improve the appearance of Hamilton parks.
“We want to make sure the program is a good fit and they understand they’re going to be working outside in the summer,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me that this is something that has been needed and that they are glad something like this is coming back in the city again. We want to see this be successful and thrive.”
Mathews is working with a number of community organizations to raise about $5,000 to provide the funds to pay the $25 a week stipends to each participant. She said if they raise more funds over the $5,000, they will be able to admit more youths to the program.
Mayor Pat Moeller is as enthusiastic as Pastor Shaq about the pilot program.
“The Pastor Shaq Job Mentoring Program will directly positively impact 25 young people and the appearance of our parks in Hamilton,” he said. “The pilot program will also indirectly positively impact many, many more people through the ripple effect of mentoring.”