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Role model with a street beat

Youth career seminar taps into experiences of Cool Nutz and others

Portland hip-hop Cool Nutz spent two hours this week telling street stories to local teenagers not glorified tales of drug deals and shootouts, but personal accounts of sacrifice, dedication and hard work.

'I've worked at Freddy's, Pietro's Pizza É and painted dorms at Portland State. What I learned was to have a goal, keep a schedule, treat everyone with respect and save your money for something you really want,' said the popular hip-hop artist, whose real name is Terrance Scott.

For more than 10 years, Scott not only has recorded a series of hip-hop albums but operated a recording studio and record company known as Jus Family Records. On Tuesday he shared the secrets of his success with two dozen high school students and recent graduates, most from North and Northeast Portland.

'I'm not singing for fun. I'm singing to support my family. I'm in the music business,' he said.

Most of the students already were familiar with Scott's music and hung on his every word.

'I've learned never give up, keep trying,' said Grant High School student Shakelh Clark.

Making connections

Dressed in a T-shirt, shorts and baseball cap, Scott spoke on the second day of a two-day seminar, 'Careers With Passion,' organized by the Tugman Group, a small consulting firm started by Portland native Leslie Tugman.

According to Tugman, the seminar was designed to connect the graduates with successful role models.

'These kids are looking for something to do with their lives,' Tugman said. 'They're working on their educations, but they also have a lot of other interests and hobbies. Some of them can become careers.'

The seminar was funded by a grant from Rewarding Youth Achievement, a downtown nonprofit agency that helps disadvantaged young people get into college or the work force. The seminar also included sessions on rŽsumŽ-writing and mock job interviews.

'Not everyone wants a 9-to-5 desk job. There are other opportunities out there, but they take a lot of work, too,' said Chris Frazier, the organization's program director.

This week's seminar focused on jobs in the music industry. It was held at the offices of the Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs on North Vancouver Avenue.

Other speakers included NW Poetry Slam winner Mike Crenshaw and Steve Mitchell, 'Jammin 95.5' (95.5 FM) disc jockey who goes by the name DJ Chill. Both of them also stressed the importance of setting and sticking to goals.

Help for the middle tier

Tugman started her company two years ago because she saw a vast unmet need: college and career counseling for 'B' and 'C' students.

'The schools have special programs for 'A' students and programs for failing students, but there are few resources for the vast majority of other students who are bright enough but need help getting connected to higher education or the job market,' she said.

A previous seminar on writing careers featured news reporters and a fiction crime writer. Future seminars will focus on careers in professional sports and marketing.

In addition to the seminars, the Tugman group also organizes four-day camps to introduce students to the high-tech industry. Funded by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International, a San Jose, Calif.-based educational foundation, 'Chip Camp' aims to interest students in math and science-related jobs.

The camps have proved very popular since they were started a little more than two years ago. Tugman has organized them in San Jose; Austin, Texas; Phoenix; Albany, N.Y., and Colorado Springs, Colo., in recent months.

Although the camps are the majority of the company's business, Tugman says he has a special fondness for the 'Careers With Passion' seminars.

'These are the ones that make me feel like I'm making a difference,' she said.

The 12 students at Tuesday's seminar were electrified by Scott's stories of working minimum wage jobs to finance his music career.