It is an honor to write this letter preceding our first-ever Annual Report, which looks back on our bevy of accomplishments and growth throughout the 2017 calendar year. When our founders established this organization back in 2012, two things were immediately clear: 1) The Hidden Genius Project would offer an exciting platform for young people—namely black male youth—near and far to build transformative skills and networks; and 2) limited resources and time meant it would take a robust and willing cadre of volunteers to advance toward our mission. As a result, I quickly signed on to volunteer whatever skills and expertise I could to set the program in motion. Reflecting on that time, it is remarkable to think how many people offered their support and resources to launch and sustain our lean operation. Even as I came on as our first staff member and Founding Executive Director in 2015, we were still very much in a lean startup posture. Now, as I pour over the various highlights from 2017, it is amazing to see just how far we have come.
The overarching theme for The Hidden Genius Project in 2017 was dynamic growth. While each year since our inception has marked some form of development—be it increase in numbers served, heightened visibility, or expansion of our budget—it seemed 2017 was truly about pushing our limits. The hallmark of this theme was our first-ever site expansion of our Intensive Immersion Program to Richmond, California, in partnership with the RYSE Youth Center. We welcomed 15 young men to RICH1, our inaugural cohort in that city, and they would eventually complete their 15-month campaign together in August 2018.
In 2017, we also launched an expanded version of our alumni Youth Educator component, deploying alumni of our Immersion Program to facilitate technology workshops for younger students with local community partners. Central to this undertaking was the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), whose team trained nearly two dozen of our young men in curriculum development and classroom management skills. Since this programming has launched, our Hidden Geniuses have served several hundred young people, including 350 elementary and middle school students they served on their own.
To go along with our many programmatic developments from the year, we were fortunate to welcome new staff members to build our capacity to serve and support more young people sustainably. Additionally, we onboarded a slate of highly capable and energetic new Board members to propel our growth. Our work hinges on the quality of our people, and we are grateful to have such first-rate individuals deeply invested in the wellbeing of our young people.
In Fall 2017, we saw three young Immersion Program alumni enter new universities, then 17 Hidden Geniuses started their senior year in high school; by summer 2018, all 17 had graduated. We are extremely proud of the young men who have gone through our program, as they continue to excel. To date, we have a 98 percent Intensive Immersion Program retention rate, a 95 percent high school graduation rate, and 95 percent of our young people have enrolled in postsecondary education. There is much for which to be thankful.
We are beyond appreciative for all our seemingly infinite supporters and advocates, and we look forward to building many more accomplishments together with our community.
Brandon Nicholson, Ph.D.
Founding Executive Director
The Hidden Genius Project