Jahi Miller, Oakland Cohort 6 Hidden Genius Alum, struggled to connect with his peers when he first joined our program, but gives The Hidden Genius Project credit for helping him “come out of his shell.” As a result, Jahi quickly became a leader in his cohort due to his strong programming skills and natural ability to teach. Now finishing up his senior year at San Leandro High School, Jahi looks forward to graduating in a few months so he can begin pursuing his passion for teaching and biochemistry in college.
How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?
I first learned about The Hidden Genius Project through my father’s friend who also happened to have been friends with [The Hidden Genius Project Executive Director] Brandon Nicholson.
What was your experience in the program like?
I enjoyed the community and family feel of the program. I also liked how all the staff was really down to earth and they did not act solely as teachers but as mentors. One of my favorite highlights was going on business trips to companies such as Google, Uber, Playstation, and YouTube. I really enjoyed the opportunity to visit these companies and learn about their various teams, especially how they created their products and services.
When I first joined the program I had a bit of trouble socializing with my peers. At times, it was difficult for me to talk with them because we didn’t have many things in common. Sometimes I just preferred interacting with the staff more because it was easier. With the support of my mentors, I overcame this challenge by educating myself on topics that my fellow peers were interested in which allowed me to connect with them on a more personal level.
As I continued to create a bond with them, I was given an opportunity to lead my own group of Geniuses and that helped me build up my leadership skills. One of my responsibilities was to ensure that those within my group completed their technical projects and assignments. Sometimes I would use analogies about things we liked to help them understand the coding concepts better, and it worked. Through this experience, I learned a valuable skill that ultimately became an interest of mine, which was teaching.
Describe the app you designed during your time in the Immersion Program.
In the second summer, I built a mobile app using Dart’s Flutter framework and Google’s Firebase. My development concept allowed a user to play music with an auto-scroll function that tracked their play speed and adjusted accordingly. This app also showcased a simple database structure for data tracking.
How is The Hidden Genius Project different from other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?
The Hidden Genius Project is different from other mentorship experiences because there is a much stronger sense of unity and growing together in the program. All of the staff are there for you whenever you need them and they aren’t afraid to sugarcoat things. I really liked that aspect of this program.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you?
Besides learning how to be a leader, communicator, and problem solver, I’d have to say programming is by far the most favorite skill that I have developed in The Hidden Genius Project.
At the beginning of the program, I really had a hard time socializing and interacting with my peers. Every time I talked with someone I either didn’t know what to say or I felt like I was forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Baba Eugene Lemon (Senior Innovation Educator) and Hodari Tourè (Director of Curriculum and Instruction) helped me come out of my shell and taught me how to be a better communicator. My ability to communicate and be myself has definitely grown from participating in this program
Computer science has taught me how to be patient and persevere as programming can be challenging. One of the first things I’ve learned was how to program correctly, but that is not always the case because bugs do occur. Those bugs were my worst enemy for the first couple of weeks. However, once I learned how to “fish” for information I soon learned how to complete the code in a timely manner. This skill has also opened so many doors for me as I received an internship at Kaiser Permanente last summer with the help of Arnold Lopez [Alumni Coordinator]. I am truly grateful for this skill and I hope to continue using my programming knowledge to teach others about what is possible when learning how to code.
What was the most important thing you gained on a personal level (development, relationship, community, etc.) from participating in The Hidden Genius Project?
I think the most important thing I gained was personal development. There were a lot of people who supported me through my journey and they helped me grow into who I am today. I became more social and open, and not as closed off and reserved. By learning how to be more collaborative, I was able to use the skills in the program to get internships and a job. Now having this experience of working in collaborative environments, I have grown to be a more mature, communicative, and social individual.
How do you think your path might have been different if you hadn’t participated in The Hidden Genius Project?
My path would have been entirely different, I would not have been able to meet my current mentors or have even learned that I could use the skills I gained in this program in any field, especially the one I am currently pursuing right now. I was definitely less collaborative and mature, and at times, more closed up. Now I feel like I am more open to new ideas, reaching out for new opportunities, and even teaching.
In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program?
I am currently working as a Level 2 Youth Educator helping the curriculum team develop content for both internal and external use. I am also developing curriculum for topics such as Arduino, Git, Github, and Terminal.
The staff continues to call and send me emails about college access and volunteer opportunities, scholarships, and professional development resources. Overall, they are always there to help and support me.
If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say?
This program is going to be the best thing you ever got into, and although there may be some rocky times in the end you’ll see what it truly has to offer.
What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?
Stick with it, no matter how tough it gets, the staff and even alumni are here for you. Also, please come to office hours more, we are here to support you guys!