Local pastor aims to pass it on through mentoring

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Skyler Bascom remembers, as a child in Harrisburg, how life was rough.

They had little to live on and his father was not present.

When he moved to Sweet Home and became a fifth-grader at Foster School, he said he and his mother lived with an abusive stepfather.

After graduating from Sweet Home High School in 2007, Bascom went on to college at Whitworth, Northwest Christian and Regent. He now works as a school counselor at Ralston Academy, a newly opened alternative high school in the Lebanon School District.

Bascom, 31, said that during his youth, strong adult mentors and coaches made a big difference in his life.

Specifically, he recalls the influence that teachers Cathy Hawken and Angie Yon had on him at Foster, and then-football Coach Rob Younger in high school.

Those memories have prompted Bascom, now also the family life pastor at Community Chapel in Sweet Home, to try to replicate the mentorship he experienced. He said he first started thinking about mentoring while working at Weyerhaeuser’s Bauman Mill, and “revisiting my life’s purpose.” He came across a book, “The Mentor Field Guide” by Dr. John Sowers, who is co-founder of The Mentoring Project, a local outreach of Imago Dei Church in Portland.

“I thought ‘Mentoring, that’s so great. That’s my story.'”

TMP, based in Little Rock, Ark., has conducted mentor trainings and launched sustainable mentoring communities all over the world, including cities such as Portland, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Cleveland, Miami, Los Angeles, as well as Canada, Europe, South America and Africa.

He’s developed a “mentoring initiative” that includes podcasts and training for would-be mentors, including an upcoming training workshop.

“I am passionate about mentoring. It is oftentimes the difference between convicts and valedictorians,” Bascom said.

He said he recalls one of his Foster teachers taking him outside a classroom after he’d been disruptive, and weeping as she told him that she saw potential in him that he couldn’t. That stuck with him, Bascom said.

His mentoring program is based on “The Mentor Field Guide,” which focuses on developing “relational mentoring” skills. Bascom said when he joined Ralston Academy as a counselor, he pitched the book to Lebanon School District administrators, who have

authorized its use in the school’s programs.

The Friday, Jan. 10, workshop, “Mentored Up,” will be the most public, thus far, of the “three prongs” he said he’s adopted to “encourage men in our area to do three things: show up, live out the love of Christ and speak in truth (within relationships with needy youths).”

“My idea is really to replicate what Mrs. Yon and Hawken and Mr. Younger have done for me, being an at-risk youth,” he said. “I’m trying to replicate that as much as possible.”

His goal, he says, is to pair 50 at-risk young people in the community, one-on-one, with trained mentors. So far, he has 25 pairs established in Lebanon, he said.

The mentoring workshop will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 10 at Community Chapel, 42250 Ames Creek Road.

Cost of the workshop is $5. All proceeds will go to a fund aimed at making the home of Nick Rietz, a local motocross competitor who was paralyzed in a crash, ADA wheelchair-accessible, he said.

The keynote speaker at the workshop will be Dakotah Keys, an Oregon State Police trooper who was a star track and field athlete at Sweet Home High School and the University of Oregon, and currently serves as head track and field coach at the high school.

“I went to NCU when he was U of O,” Bascom said.

He said he would occasionally run across Keys, who is a few years younger, in Eugene, and they’ve maintained contact.

Since Keys competed at the UO alongside eventual Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton, Bascom figured Eaton would likely be one of his biggest mentors.

But he said Keys, who grew up in a disadvantaged, single-parent household during his teen years, told him that Sweet Home High School counselor and assistant track coach Jim Kistner had been “the best mentor I ever had.”

“I was blown away,” Bascom said. “He gets it. He was just so humble. He said, ‘I’m thankful for that period.'”

Also scheduled to speak are Dr. Donald Lewis of Regent College, who will talk about how he mentors leaders – particularly pastors, and Justin Meier, a local physical therapist who lost his own father and will talk about how he was influenced by men, particularly an Albany police officer, who stepped in help him.

Though his focus in organizing the workshop was initially in creating outreach to at-risk youth, Bascom said that has shifted to helping “men step up as husbands and fathers.”

In addition to the workshop, Bascom has produced four podcasts featuring at-risk youths sitting down with himself and “healthy and hopeful adults” and “intertwining” their stories.

One features Ron Hegge, founder of Camp Attitude. Others include conversations with Tonya Cairo, principal at Lebanon’s Pioneer School, and Winston McCullough, who teaches positive psychology at Oregon State University. Posted on social media sites such as iTunes, iCloud, Stitcher – “all that good stuff,” the podcasts have attracted over 1,000 hits, he said.

Bascom said the central purpose of his effort is simple: to pass on the blessings he’s received from mentoring.

“My purpose is, one, to give at-risk youth the same fighting chances I had, or, two, to reduplicate what those mentors did for me. Either way, it’s saying the same thing in two ways.”

For more information, contact Bascom at (541) 405-1511 or by email at [email protected].