Participating in our 15-month Intensive immersion Program in 2020 provided a unique experience for our Geniuses, as our first and only cohorts to come together—remotely. Glenn Ivory (Oakland Cohort 8 Hidden Genius Alum) gives praise to The Hidden Genius Project, naming “the community” as the most important thing he gained from our program. “Although our communication was through a screen, the Ubuntu energy was still heavy—that energy made me enjoy the program and led me to remain connected.”

Glenn found rich opportunities to grow into a bonafide leader and create deep bonds with his peers both in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Now, 17-year-old Glenn Ivory is looking forward to graduating high school this Spring and pursuing his dream career in Christian Ministry as a freshman at California Baptist University.

How have you been? 

I have been blessed—no complaints. At this time in my life, I am going through a big transition, and even though change is accompanied by uncertainty—I am excited about my future. My family has played a tremendous role in my readiness, and thankfully, they are all well.

My senior year in high school has been filled with exciting things, so I am grateful. Also, working with The Hidden Genius Project is a blessing in many ways. Even though I am not the best computer scientist, the program’s environment, culture, and opportunities are so great there is no place I would rather work.

How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?

I first learned about this program from a college fair at the Oakland Marriott. Initially, I was extremely hesitant because I never really was interested in computer science. In the beginning, a 15-month program sounded horrendous, but ultimately being in The Hidden Genius Project was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made.

What was your experience in the program like?

My experience in the program was tremendously impactful. Because my 15 months in the program was completely virtual, I missed out on some of the community-building aspects I now experience in person as a Youth Educator. This is not to say the community was lacking online, every day it still felt as if I was part of a brotherhood. Although our communication was through a screen, the Ubuntu energy was still heavy—that energy made me enjoy the program and led me to remain connected. One of the biggest highlights for me was our rap battles. The times we faced off against other cohorts were truly a part of my best memories in the program. Another highlight was making valuable relationships with brothers even as far as Los Angeles. Some of the people I met in those cohorts are still my brothers to this day. 

Attending programming online had its benefits, such as: having access to relationship building with other cohorts, more accessible access to instructors, virtual trips, and a kitchen a few steps from my workspace, but amid all those benefits, it also brought many challenges. Staying focused while also having my bed and tv less than a foot away was a struggle, and because of that, I did not always perform at my best. However, all our instructors were super intentional about creating a productive environment.

Leadership and entrepreneurship was always my favorite part of the program. All the discussions and leadership-oriented projects were thought-provoking. Our conversation not only prepared us as leaders, but allowed us to bond with our brothers by opening the door of transparency and honest communication. Leadership gave us a space to be ourselves and be unapologetic about who we are. Our lessons in entrepreneurship always made being an entrepreneur seem realistic. The teachers stressed that being an entrepreneur is not reserved for those already in power; we learned that even the marginalized groups, even I, a young Black man from Oakland, can do something significant in my community.

Describe the app you designed during your time in the Immersion Program.

During my final summer, I was a member of the Business Track. My business idea was a website called CrossConnect that aimed to assist and unite Christian churches nationwide. For context, I equate CrossConnect to a social media or dating platform for churches with more extensive benefits. Once the church paid the affordable membership fee, they would have access to post their information, i.e., name, location, needs, denominational affiliations, ways to help, special events, and other necessary details. Also, by answering the small questionnaire during the signup process, CrossConnect would connect a church to similar churches in their area. In addition to this service, we would connect churches with technological assistance, and provide support with tech to the best of our ability. I was serious about the idea, but after the summer, I never pursued it. However, who knows, that may change in the near future.

How is The Hidden Genius Project different from other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?

Besides the mentoring I receive in church and other faith-based groups, I have never had the opportunity to be a part of a mentoring organization. The Hidden Genius Project was the first real secular mentoring experience I have had, and it superseded all of my expectations.

What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you? 

The Hidden Genius Project trains us to be social and to communicate our needs, issues, goals, and ideas. As a person who is into public speaking, the opportunities I have received in the program, whether it be leadership, news interviews, emcees, or video creation, this program has significantly helped me with developing that skill.

I’d also say leadership is one of the most critical aspects of this program. In this session, we learn that we do not have to stick to the status quo or presuppositions of the traditional leader. Everyone in the program is a leader and is given the space to be one in their own way. Because of this, I have been able to express what it means for me to be a leader, especially in relation to my faith, and this program has been very supportive and uplifting in that regard.

The other two skills I learned in the program are computational thinking and networking. Computational thinking is an effective and efficient way to solve problems. It was a skill taught to me by Baba Lemon (Sr. Innovation Educator) during my first summer of immersion. It was a tool he taught to aid us in solving our problems in computer science; however, it has been used in all areas of my life. It gave a realistic way to find a solution to a big problem by making it smaller tasks.

When it comes to networking and collaboration, ‘Ubuntu’ is a phrase The Hidden Genius Project lives by, but the community fostered in observance of that phrase is not just for social enjoyment. Through the program, we learn that everyone has something to offer and that every puzzle has different pieces that come together to make a perfect picture. Therefore, we are taught early on how to collaborate and work with our brothers to create and build projects. This skill is carried out into every facet of my life, and because of this program, I have learned to appreciate the value of working with a team.

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 gained from this program is the community. The brotherhood and the culture are like no other. I am not the most talented computer scientist; honestly, it is not my calling. Still, the love, support, fun, community, and family that I experienced by being a Genius is why I will always remain connected.

When you imagine yourself before starting The Hidden Genius Project, what’s different between that version of you and the current version?

I am more connected and involved. Since participating in the program, I have partaken in many meaningful community-oriented activities that are genuinely making a difference, such as community outreach, partnering with Mentor California in creating a racial equity plan for boys of color in our school systems, working as an emcee at events, and being in interviews for the program. Because of this, I have gained greater confidence and respect for myself and a more profound interest and love for community development.

In what ways has the staff of The Hidden Genius Project stayed continued to support you since graduating from the program?

Because I am a Youth Educator, I am in so many Slack channels and group chats that I have zero problems staying connected. The educators that taught me and the ones I am just beginning to meet are less than a few texts away. Also, since I graduated from the program, I have been connected to many more resources that are assisting me in my personal life, and I am truly grateful.

Even as a Youth Educator working with the OAK10 cohort, I continue to learn and be a part of the culture I so deeply enjoy. During my 15 months, I was online for the entire time, so unfortunately, I missed out on many community-building activities you experience when you’re together in one space. As a Youth Educator, I experience and help foster that sense of community.

If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say?

I would tell myself to put more effort and attention into computer science. Even though I never really saw it as my passion, if I had put more effort and attention into it, I could have found something in it that would be a part of my future. Still, the best part is that I have access to a surplus of instructors willing to teach me even now, so I know it is still possible.

What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?

Above all, stay connected! The 15 months is nowhere near the end of your journey as a Genius; it is only the beginning. Develop a relationship with your brothers and instructors, and you will be connected with resources for growth and a family for life. They mean what they say when they tell you, “Once a Genius, always a Genius.”

Since 2012, nearly 9,800 students have revealed their genius through our Immersion, Catalyst, and Community Partner Programs, and so many more are waiting to shine.


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