Nancy Scott’s 14-year-old son was often referred to as a “problem child.”
Since second grade, Jason Scott’s grades in reading, math and vocabulary were mostly D’s and F’s. He is prone to classroom outbursts and acting out as the “class clown.”
“Our battle with Jason has been where he's always had a problem with learning. He's very smart, but he's not accepted,” said Nancy Scott, 42.
She said she felt there was something more to his academic and behavioral issues, seeing the shadow of her own educational processing issues in him.
One month ago, after a “long fight” to get Jason a private assessment from a school psychologist at Sonora Elementary School, Jason was diagnosed with dyslexia and an auditory processing disorder.
Nancy Scott said she knew through Jason’s journey that there must be more undiagnosed students in the county. In conjunction with her non-profit, Nancy’s Hope, Scott is now developing plans to establish an after-school youth center to nurture and protect Jason and students like him.
“My son has fallen through the cracks. I want to help him and it's helped me advocate for more children,” Scott said. “I think if we had somewhere in the community that brought more to the kids that are struggling, they would strive to be better citizens when they are young adults.”
The youth center would provide what most students need most at a young age — love and guidance, she said.
“I just want something back in the community to help these kids. Our growing society makes it harder for these students to feel like they belong,” she said.
Nancy Scott was never officially diagnosed with a learning disability, she said, but felt that a youth center would have provided her a safe space.
Despite the struggles, Nancy Scott is the founder of Nancy’s Hope, a non-profit that has a thrift store in Columbia, and is the one of the newly elected board of trustees on the Sonora Union High School District.
Jason is her youngest child. Scott has two daughters — one who is a senior at Sonora High School and another who is 22 years old. Neither of them struggled with a learning disability, she said.
The youth center would be for everyone, she said, including kids fleeing from substance abuse in their homes.
“There's nothing to do in this town, and if a kid doesn't have money to go to the movies, they’re going to get in trouble,” Scott said.
Scott said a former Sonora youth center in the 1990s was a step in the right direction, but when it folded it left a vacuum that was filled by harmful youth indiscretions. Her renewed youth center could not only provide activities like arcade games or a small rock wall, but therapy groups or educational counseling, she said.
“I've known that I've wanted to do a youth center for a long time, but even more now having seen him struggle in school. It seems like a correlation that everybody is having a hard time,” she said.
Scott said her son was often overlooked or ignored for potential learning disabilities because of his behavioral issues.
“A lot of times people think when kids are disruptive in class they’re a bad kid. A lot of times people don't look past the behavioral issue,” she said.
In fourth grade while attending Columbia Elementary School, Scott recalled her son bursting into a rendition of “We Will Rock You” by Queen in the middle of class. Other students joined in with him, and Jason was punished for distracting the class.
Despite being inappropriate behavior, the situation belied one of Jason’s budding strengths in the area of music and band, Scott said. After starting with trombone in the sixth grade (and often playing it while his mother drove an open-body Jeep throughout the county), Jason has moved onto the drums.
At the youth center, interests like Jason’s in music and art could be nurtured into something worthwhile and meaningful, she said.
“We want to emphasize the strengths of these kids and help them pursue their goals and dream in life,” she said.
Jason plans to attend Sonora High School next year.
Nancy Scott said her youth center plans were still in the developmental stage. She is looking for retired teachers to be a part of the board and also hoping for the right building to open up.
“I have to do it in stepping stones just to get it there,” she said.
Scott said the youth center would likely be a part of the non-profit network already established by Nancy’s Hope. Once a board was secured, she said a fundraising effort and grant money would provide the start-up costs. The board would be tasked with also developing a mission and a format that would not fizzle after a short while, she added.
Nancy Scott said the youth center would be separate from her role at the high school.
“I thought it would be a great thing to be a part of school board because I can learn how to better help the kids,” she said.