Redemption Road Leads to GCU Construction Site for Campus ‘Ambassador’
Story by Michael Ferraresi
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
The tank-like trucks hauling brick and sand around GCU’s new parking garage kick dust into Jeffrey Scott’s face as he sits patiently in the limited shade of his patio-like umbrella.
It’s a sweaty, dirty nook of campus under the searing summer heat. Yet the man in the blue hardhat and wraparound shades refers to his job as a construction traffic controller as his “getaway.”
GCU employees have grown used to hearing Scott’s greetings as they walk from their cars to their desks each morning. Groups of women smile at “how y’all doing?” University executives are reminded to have a nice day. Others get a playful fist-bump.
“I figured you can’t be quiet when you have people walking by all the time, I’m just not that kind of person,” said Scott, known for the worn-out sign – SLOW on one side, STOP on the other – he hoists to keep vehicles flowing near his construction site entrance.
“You have to believe something good is going to happen to you when you do something positive,” he said.
The sign in Scott’s hand appears to describe actions that may have saved his life. The 39-year-old laborer, who was hired to work at GCU by a subcontractor of Pono Construction, said his job in the parking lot at the southwestern corner of campus is a key reason why he has maintained his recovery from substance abuse.
Scott checked himself into a halfway house in December without any order from his probation officer or any authority figure. He forced himself to clean up, tired of being “burned” by his addictions. He slowed his roll. He stopped using.
Scott was raised and lived most of his life in a crime-challenged neighborhood in south Phoenix. He lived in the midst of the drugs and gang violence that plagued his community for years. His mother died when he was 12, leaving him to be raised by his grandparents.
After coping with his demons through meetings and relapse interventions, he expected to get one day’s work through his employer, Industrial Personnel. Instead, he landed at GCU for more than three months – sitting each morning in a place where finding your purpose is far from cliché.
“Being a day laborer and having it for three months, I see it as an opportunity,” Scott said. “I come here and forget about all that (personal) stuff and let my day go by.”
Three months’ work. For some, it would be too little to cover a car payment or purchase the next vacation package. But Scott has been able to pay his debts and save a little money, taking his check home each day on the bus to his home in north Phoenix.
The recovery house run by Transitional Living Communities, an organization with six residential facilities in Arizona, offers everything from guided meditation to 12-step meetings to wean residents off drugs and alcohol.
Gilbert Falquez, house manager for TLC’s Sunnyslope House, said Scott has shown a deep motivation to finding work and working the recovery program.
“He’s willing to change and do it better than the day before,” said Falquez, who also went through a TLC program on his own road to recovery.
“He’s been through the worst … he’s been accomplishing a lot,” Falquez said. “He wakes up at 2 every morning to go to work. I don’t know how he does it.”
Without knowing his full story, GCU employees have gravitated to Scott and look forward to his morning pleasantries.
GCU employee Jessica Ertell said she has seen Scott waving at a pregnant employee to make sure she could get into a prime parking spot.
“Even if he’s talking to someone else, he still pauses his conversation to say hi to you,” said Ertell, who works in GCU’s Event Services. “It’s just a great way to start your day.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.