BRANDON NICHOLSON, Ph.D.
Founding Executive Director
An Oakland native, Founding Executive Director Brandon Nicholson has always felt a deep sense of commitment to promoting equity in the public realm, particularly in the education space. Previously, he was a Senior Associate at Social Policy Research Associates (SPR), where he conducted research, evaluation, and analysis across a range of key social policy areas. Brandon has conducted substantial research in the areas of education and youth development, with a particular focus on issues of equity and access in K-12 education for underserved populations. He has considerable experience investigating linkages among race, class, and youth development.
Director of Finance and Operations
A San Francisco native, Tariq Norris is the Finance and Operations Director at The Hidden Genius Project. His expertise is rooted in organizational development, fiscal management, non-profit administration, youth development, and strategic planning. Previously, Tariq held leadership positions at several local and national non-profit organizations which focused on organizational growth and creating positive pathways and opportunities for children and families. Tariq was educated at Alabama State University where he studied Communications. Tariq believes strongly in the power of community and continues to dedicate his life and career to helping historically underserved youth and communities advance and thrive.
Director of Strategic Initiatives
Sean Valentine grew up in the Greater New York City Area. In 2009 he relocated to Oakland to work with youth athletes through personal training. In this pursuit, Sean developed a passion for mentorship and teen counseling. While studying Economics, he became determined to incorporate his life’s experiences, scholastic knowledge and pure people skills to help underserved teens reach their true potential. Sean received his B.S. in Economics from Saint Mary’s College.
HODARI TOURÈ, Ph.D.
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Hodari A. Tourè received his doctorate from UC Berkeley in the School of Education in Social and Cultural Studies. His research in anthropology and education reflects a strong emphasis on inner city African Americans and has resulted in an interest in organic community discourse, which he calls block pedagogy. He states it is a discourse, which reflects the constant negotiation of identity power and privileged knowledge.
Prof. Tourè has taught courses at UC Berkeley and has vast experience in working with young Black males throughout the East Bay including Emery Middle School and King Estate Middle School.
After hearing a sermon of Dr. MLK in which he said “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” Akeem decided early on in his life that advocacy and speaking truth to power was his calling. At the intersections of technology, entrepreneurship, and policy, lay his passions as he believes societal transformation is possible when under-resourced demographics begin to trust their innate skills and build for themselves instead of only consuming. Akeem previously served as a Senior Corporate Paralegal overseeing entity formations, intellectual property, and compliance matters. Akeem was educated at the University of California, Riverside where he studied Public Policy and Religion. Currently, Akeem is the Programs Director at The Hidden Genius Project and founder of Corporately LLC.
Computer science enthusiast and aspiring entrepreneur, Abraham Keleta is the Innovation Educator at The Hidden Genius Project. Being an Oakland Native, Abraham is interested in utilizing technology and leadership principles to inspire and empower the next generation to build the tools needed to make a global impact. In his spare time, Abraham is devoted to curating his passion projects; Asend, a personal blog and running a clothing brand, Leopes. He also enjoys reading and reviewing books focused on personal development.
DAVID MALONE JR.
Innovation Educator and Richmond Site Coordinator
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, David Malone Jr. serves as the Innovation Educator at The Hidden Genius Project. Soon after receiving his B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Akron, he moved to Oakland in order to pursue his passion of uplifting Black communities. The under-representation of Black people in the tech industry sparked interest for David to help provide the resources and opportunities needed to diversify the tech sector. He also worked as a Technical Support Representative for Rockwell Automation overseeing numerous software products.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Denzel Russell is the Communications Manager at The Hidden Genius Project. He provides a wealth of experience in youth development, program management, marketing, and non-profit administration. Prior to this role, Denzel’s passion for mentoring underserved youth stemmed from his service at the Children’s Creativity Museum, where he worked as the Marketing and Development Associate, Floor Manager, and Youth Program Coordinator. Denzel received his B.S. in Business Administration with a focus on Management from San Francisco State University.
Jamal Mitchell drives the Support Services arm of The Hidden Genius Project as Care Champion. With over twenty-two years of experience in serving youth and families in the foster care system, Jamal specializes in cultivating relationships with at-risk and underserved youth. He has a strong passion for comprehensive case management and possesses a gift for developing a holistic needs-based service plan. Jamal was also a Life Skills Trainer for twelve years at the Alameda County Independent Living Skills Program.
Senior Innovation Educator
Eugene Lemon has over thirty years of experience in the computer technology field, first as a business software consultant and then as a computer science teacher. He recently retired from Oakland Unified School District after twenty years of service where he worked in alternative educational settings; primarily serving at-risk students who would otherwise have a difficult time succeeding in a traditional high school environment.
Eugene is the president of the local Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) Chapter and a member of the CSTA’s Advocacy Leadership Team. Eugene is also a member of The Level Playing Field Institute’s Broadening Participation in Computing Advisory committee providing feedback on the development, implementation and evaluation of the BPC project.
Born and raised on Travis Air Force Base, California, Kacie Patton has always had a knack for helping others. This passion motivated Kacie to receive her B.S. in Criminal Justice from California State University, Sacramento. After serving the residents of Solano County for over ten years as a probation officer, Kacie chose to pursue her MSW degree from The University of Louisville’s, Kent School of Social Work — where she is currently studying — in hopes of expanding and strengthening her knowledge and ability to effectively support others reach their highest potential. Kacie is excited to support the mission of The Hidden Genius Project as an MSW Intern.
Arnold Lopez is the College Advisor from UC Berkeley who provides college access information, resources, and scholarship opportunities to The Hidden Genius Project. Arnold started his career in San Diego where he worked with young people through local recreation centers, the YMCA, and with his church youth group. His passion for education and youth development amplified when he moved to the Bay Area and joined Destination College Advising Corps (DCAC) with UC Berkeley. Arnold hopes to one day work in the Department of Education pursuing Education Policy to bring more resources back into at-opportunity communities.
Los Angeles Site Director
A native of Los Angeles, Kayla Mason is the Los Angeles Site Director at The Hidden Genius Project. Kayla operates at the nexus of program operations, coalition building, and organizational development. She is driven by the opportunity to influence systemic change for at-opportunity youth and has overseen community growth opportunities for local and national organizations. Kayla believes in building youth intrinsic power and is a proud alumni of South Central Youth Empowered through Action (SCYEA) a youth coalition that builds campaigns to improve the conditions of South Los Angeles schools.
MICHAEL LOPEZ, M.S.W.
Los Angeles Program Coordinator
Originally from South East Los Angeles County, Michael Lopez is the Los Angeles Program Coordinator at The Hidden Genius Project. While growing up he recognized many of the inequalities people of color face through his personal experiences and those around him. While attending the University of California, San Diego he gained a new set of lenses he could utilize to deconstruct social issues through Sociology, however, he felt limited in the tools he possessed to enact change. This motivated Michael to pursue his M.S.W. at the University of Southern California where he honed in on his passion for working with youth with marginalized identities. In his free time, Michael enjoys staying active, as well as coaching high school wrestling.
Los Angeles Innovation Educator
Chris Wilson supports The Hidden Genius Project as the Los Angeles Innovation Educator. Originally from Berkeley, CA, Chris graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Africana Studies. He is passionate about serving young people in our communities and his work is guided by a deep love for the African Diaspora and the Black experience in America. Prior to this experience, Chris worked as a Program Manager for City Year Los Angeles, where he managed young adults who served students with; tier 2 support time, social & emotional development, and leadership workshops in the Watts and Inglewood communities.
Los Angeles Innovation Educator
Billy Spearman received his Master of Computer Science degree at Alabama A&M University and is the Los Angeles Innovation Educator at The Hidden Genius Project. Higher education and software development have always been a staple of Billy’s career, as he previously worked as a computer science instructor at Southwest Tennessee Community College and software engineer for the United States Department of Defense. His long term goals are to become an independent software development consultant and tenured professor at a Historical Black College.