Robert Scruggs got involved with mentoring at-risk youth when he was still in his teens. Raised by a single mother in Goochland County, where he played basketball for Goochland High School, Scruggs got involved at age 19 with the city of Richmond’s Squires Educational Foundation. “The goal was to get college scholarships for area student athletes,” the Virginia State graduate recalls.
Today, as a service coordinator for T-Mobile, Scruggs is a major part of the telecommunication company’s call center support team — he oversees training, troubleshoots technical issues and analyzes phone data. But his passion still lies with helping young people. Last year he started I Am Proof (the letters of which stand for Positive Reinforcement of Our Future), which he says helps youth reach their goals. Instead of concentrating on athletes, though, his organization also helps youngsters interested in the arts, teaching, police work and other disciplines. “We look for kids with a lot of passion for something,” he says. “Passion is something you can’t teach.”
I Am Proof currently mentors 25 Richmond-area youth. “We hold development seminars, offer SAT test preparation, do drug prevention and talk to them about peer pressure. … We keep them away from the negativity,” he says. Scruggs even helped one teenager “wrapped up in the wrong crowd” to avoid jail time and eventually get into a Division II school. “That’s my greatest success story to date,” he says.
With his girlfriend, Dione Alston, by his side — “I couldn’t do it without her support,” he says — Scruggs isn’t stopping there. He plans to start a magazine, tentatively called Proof, that will serve as a positive voice for Richmond’s young people. He also wants to establish safe places for area teenagers to go. “We need more recreational centers,” he says, “more facilities that allow our youth to be themselves.”