Devin Brice, RICH2 Hidden Genius Alum knew what his career path would be as soon as he was able to hold a pencil. “It has always been my passion to become an animator.” After joining our Intensive Immersion Program, Devin’s passion for art and animation was supercharged by the experiences and connections he made throughout his 15-month journey with The Hidden Genius Project. Now with the full backing and support of his peers and mentors, Devin will be attending California College of the Arts (CCA) this fall: “They supported me, believed in me, encouraged me, and advocated for me to apply and give the process my all. It is because of them that I will be attending CCA on a full-ride scholarship.”
How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?
My mom actually told me about The Hidden Genius Project. She said she saw a coding program on social media that taught Black kids how to be leaders and code. Knowing that I loved animation, she encouraged me to apply as my mom knew technology and art go hand in hand, especially as an animator. My mom even missed her friend’s wedding to take me to my interview for the program.
How are you feeling with all the recent events that are currently affecting the Black community?
I usually avoid political conversations, but I don’t have a problem with stating facts as what is happening to our people is not okay. Throughout my time with The Hidden Genius Project, I’ve learned that as African American people, especially Black men, that we do not get the benefit of the doubt in these situations, and things don’t often work out as they should. Before joining the program, I didn’t give all of these events much thought as I figured they were just isolated incidents. But after being in the program and learning about this trend of Black people getting killed by the police across the nation, I realized it’s truly a broken system.
What was your experience in the program like?
It was nice to bond and connect with peers that looked just like me. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to go on business trips and visit the various tech companies and startups around the Bay Area, especially Playstation and Manticore Games. You know I love animation so being able to visit these gaming companies and network with the employees there was super exciting. Plus, I had the chance to tour Playstation’s Concept Art Gallery, which is one of my favorite forms of art.
Besides the business trip, I initially joined The Hidden Genius Project to learn about coding and technology, but I ended up learning more about the concept of entrepreneurship and leadership. I realized that I wasn’t as interested in the coding aspect of the program, but Akeem’s [Programs Director] entrepreneurship lessons fascinated me. I loved learning about economics, supply and demand, globalization, and what it takes to start a business.
Also, the leadership lessons David [Richmond Site Coordinator and Innovation Educator] taught were always grounded in our lives as young Black men. He shared how it takes discipline to be a leader, and even on the other hand, how it requires even more discipline to know when to step back and let someone else take charge. This stuck with me because I normally prefer to lead, especially being one of the oldest students in my cohort, but I had to learn how to let others lead if they were more knowledgeable on a subject.
Describe the app designed during your time in the Immersion Program
The idea behind my app, Dynamic Art, was intended to be a platform for artists to collaborate, network, and learn from one another. The platform would have weekly themes, like cartoon style or realism, and all artists using the app would make an original piece keeping the theme in mind. Afterward, there would be forums and discussion threads where users could give useful advice and tips on the art and drawing style. At the end of the week, a gallery would be posted and archived so people can always go and revisit the pieces created.
How is The Hidden Genius Project different than other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?
Most mentorship programs are not intended only for African-American boys, which is definitely a rare thing. In my cohort, we often learned from one another especially when it came to a topic we were all passionate about, such as music, art, and technology. This was also true when we confided in one another about our collective struggles and challenges with being a Black teenager in high school.
I always felt that with The Hidden Genius Project, you got more than just the average care or bare minimum support of a youth program. It was much more than that. David always spoke with passion and love when teaching us code or talking about life — every lesson he taught was always a matter of life and death for us as black men. I know most mentorship programs wouldn’t be teaching students like myself on how I can navigate life in such a way that it could save my life.
My mentors taught me a lot of the things my parents are telling me now. Police officers see Black boys as a threat, even if I have to swallow my pride, I must show respect because my life is always on the line. I truly appreciate everyone for making me become more aware of this reality.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you?
The top skill I’ve learned is definitely leadership, as our sessions covered what it took to be a leader, but also included life as a Black man, Black history, and ways we can keep ourselves safe. I also learned enough about coding and computer science to hold a conversation with developers and programmers.
What was the most important thing you gained on a personal level (development, relationship, community, etc.) from participating in The Hidden Genius Project?
The most important thing I took away from being in the program is connecting with peers and learning about life. I also believe that it’s really important to give back to your community, support your people, and be aware of the problems people in our community are facing.
How do you think your path might have been different if you hadn’t participated in The Hidden Genius Project?
Most notably I wouldn’t have a full-ride scholarship to California College of the Arts. One of my favorite parts of the program is having the opportunity to meet new people in a career path that interests me and then getting a chance to connect and learn from them. Plus, I wouldn’t have met all of my brothers from my cohort.
In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program?
Besides getting a full-ride scholarship, I recently finished an Autodesk apprenticeship at the end of April that was ran fully on Zoom. A few Geniuses and myself learned how to create 3-D models on the Autodesk Fusion 360 platform. It was definitely a great opportunity for me to learn about 3-D modeling as it easily relates to animation. I also really enjoyed learning about the features of the platform and what it takes to design something from Black Autodesk staff. [Click HERE to check out his sketches.]
To this day, Arnold [College Adviser] continues to send me various scholarships and enrichment opportunities. I can’t thank all of my mentors and everyone behind the scenes enough who have continued to support me beyond the 15 months.
If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say?
I’d definitely tell myself to don’t stress about the coding too much and just keep things simple and learn what I can.