OAKLAND, Calif. - It's summer vacation, but these young Bay Area teens are laser focused. Inside Oakland's David Glover Education and Technology Center their laptops are in hand and finger tips busy coding away.
Welcome to the Hidden Genius Project! The intense immersion program in Oakland mentors young black teens in all things computer science, business and leadership. It's a high tech boot camp that finds untapped potential and provides a platform for success.
"We believe in our core that everybody possesses leadership capacity. Everybody possesses their own genius potential," said Brandon Nicholson, Executive Director of The Hidden Genius Project. "We work with a specific group with black male youth and we believe they have a great deal to offer the community and society."
The commitment is 15 months, including two seven week summer sessions, 40 hours a week.
It's a big investment. But the potential benefits are endless for these young leaders who are unlocking career paths in technology, an industry that is often criticized for it's lack of diversity.
"Where else is there? What else is there to look forward too?" said Arthur Cooper, a freshman at California High School. "You don't see many black people coding as much as you should. So I want to be one of those who stands out the most."
"There's a lot of smart people out there who aren't working in tech when they should be and there could be amazing ideas that are just tied in the dark right now," said Ian Bundyweiss, a sophomore at Oakland School for the Arts.
What's remarkable is the students are now becoming mentors themselves and building life skills within their communities, not to mention confidence. This is so much bigger than Tech!
"Before I wasn't thinking about building my own business or something like that, but now I kinda want to build my own software, and hopefully turn it into a company or something," said Ndene Diallo, a sophomore at Oakland High School.
"Sometimes some of the greatest challenges is how they are perceived..right...they have very little control over that and yet we are always trying to remind them they have a great deal to offer the world. Not just so they can exel, so ALL of them can excel," Nicholson said.