By Victor Ochieng
Tech leader Google is providing $1 million in grant to Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland-based organization focused on raising the number of young Black men in tech. The funds are being provided by Google.org, the tech giant's foundation arm.
Google unveiled the funds during "Tech Slam," and event hosted in Silicon Valley and whose main objective is to enhance access to opportunities to those in computer science and such other fields as music, sports and fashion. Also present during the "Tech Slam" was Alphabet SVP David Drummond, who hosted an intuitive chat with Warriors players JaVale McGee and Andre Iguodala.
In a blog post after the unveiling of the funds, Justin Steele, a principle at Google.org, wrote an illuminating blog post about the whole idea. "Coding is evolving and influencing how we think about all industries, including fashion, music, and art. But even as CS becomes more important across a wide variety of fields, millions of Black, Hispanic and female youth aren’t unlocking its benefits."
Steele then pointed out perception as one of the factors that influence people's decisions to pursue careers in computer science. "One reason behind a lack of representation is perception; according to our research with Gallup, students are five times more likely to take an interest in computer science if they often see people who look like them in that field. As we often say, 'you have to see it to be it.'"
Steele first came across The Hidden Genius Project during the 2015 Google Impact Challenge, when the group was a finalist and eventual winner. Google.org first gave the project a grant of $500,000, an amount that boosted the group’s programs. So far the project has reached well over 1,700 Bay Area students through their growing 15-month intensive CS and entrepreneurship bootcamp program, without forgetting their events and workshops that expose young black men to fundamentals of computer programming, mentors, and careers in tech, such as sports analytics and video game development.
“For the past five years, The Hidden Genius Project has been able to serve youth in a holistic fashion, revealing their genius throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. With a broadened vision of themselves, our Geniuses become change agents for their own lives and their communities. Thanks to the Google Impact Challenge Grant, we were able to increase our investment in program operations and expand our youth development opportunities to open an additional program site in Richmond, California,” The Hidden Genius Project executive director Brandon Nicholson said.
He further said the additional funds from Google is a great boost to their goal of providing exposure to young black men in tech industry, including opening doors for job opportunities, entrepreneurship training, tech mentorship programs and attachments across the country.