Paid Shadow Program Aims to Improve North Tulsa

State Representative Kevin Matthews, along with other leaders and organizations, are launching a paid entrepreneurship shadow program, pairing young people with business owners.

With Senator Jabar Shumate, Representative Seneca Scott, Councilor Jack Henderson, and the 100 Black Men & Women with the 100, Matthews fund raised to be able to pay 12 teenagers $10 per hour for the five week program. Youth Services and Langston University also contributed.

The program pairs high school students with professional business owners in the community and also requires the students attend a once weekly financial literacy class.

Representative Matthews said it is meant to benefit Tulsa's north side. He said experts report some young people are recruited to gangs under the lure of $100 tennis shoes.

"They want money. That's what they want. They're not breaking into people's house for a program. They want money," Matthews said.

There are a mix of young men and women enrolled. They had to apply for the shadow slots.

Demarcus Bennett, 17, is a high school student with an interest in a technical career down the line.

"Children need a positive influence and need something positive and constructive going on, because I guess we've all seen what can happen if they're not a positive role model," Bennett said.

Business owner Isom Hill with Blue Hill Heat & Air is a mentor in the program. He got on the path to study his field after learning about it from a friend's father. He said helping young people will ultimately improve North Tulsa.

"You do what you see," Hill said.

For many, the program will begin next week.

If the pilot program proves successful, leaders will aim to include about 60 young people in the future. Matthews said there is a chance that the idea could grow to the state or national level.