Before COVID changed the ways in which we convene and collaborate, Jason Smith, Richmond Cohort 4 Alum, vividly remembers attending our annual Brothers Code event in 2019 sharing how “there were so many companies that I was really intrigued by.” After attending that Catalyst Program and learning how to code a robot with our alumni Youth Educators, Jason knew he had to be a part of The Hidden Genius Project. Now 16 years old and finishing up his junior year at Rodriguez High School, Jason shares his appreciation for the time he spent in the program through social distancing, and now as a returning Youth Educator, where he is able to connect face-to-face, with young Geniuses and fellow alumni.
How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project? I first learned about The Hidden Genius Project from my dad. He had seen a few posts on social media and then found out about Brothers Code in 2019. We attended and it was really fun for me. There were so many companies that I was really intrigued by. I also listened to a few alumni and they shared their experiences when they were in the Immersion Program. They also showed us how to code a robot which was really interesting for me. I also attended a Playstation and Twitch workshop since I am really into gaming. It was cool to see that The Hidden Genius Project has so many connections to different companies.
What was your experience in the program like?
Some things that I really enjoyed in the program were being able to have a conversation about similar interests with the other Geniuses. It was cool to be able to talk about coding with other people because not everyone knows how to code. Starting out in the program, we are given a MacBook, which opened up so many doors because there are so many possibilities that can be done with it. You can run a whole business with a MacBook so it was really cool to own one. Being exposed to all of the software was amazing and learning how to use them really showed us what we can really do with any computer. I also enjoyed being able to create a lot of different mini-projects with the MacBook to practice our skills.
One of my favorite classes was life skills. It taught us how we need to act and how to hold ourselves in society. It showed us experiences that would happen to us and the proper way to react. Also, one of the biggest challenges I faced in the Immersion Program was trying to find all of the errors in my code. I would stare at it for quite a long time trying to find it until David (Senior Innovation Educator and Richmond Site Coordinator) took a quick look at it and found it for me.
Overall, the program was great for me as it taught me how to lead others and take charge. I started not to always be a follower, but a leader. This program made me work on myself to become a better person.
Describe the app you designed during your time in the Immersion Program. During the Immersion Program, I designed a website called Uprise Clothing. It was a site where small and upcoming clothing brands can put their products on my page to buy. The reason I created this was that my brother created a clothing brand but didn’t want to make a whole website. A challenge that I faced while creating this was making sure that the site was user-friendly on all platforms. I didn’t want a customer to turn away because my website didn’t work on their phone.
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 mentor experiences because they are a lot more engaged with you. The Hidden Genius Project is like another family for me. The program helps young Black men with many skill sets and I think that is something that I needed.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you? List your top 4 skills with descriptions. I would say that the most useful skills that I have learned are being able to properly communicate with people, my computational skills, and my ability to be quick-witted. This helps in my everyday life because I’m able to respond quickly while also thinking of a good response. It comes in handy when I am meeting someone for the first time and I can have a normal conversation without appearing nervous. Having great computational skills is also good because I have gotten many opportunities off of just knowing how to do things The Hidden Genius Project taught me. Another top skill that I learned from The Hidden Genius Project was my entrepreneurial skills. Being taught those skills gives you a whole new mindset about the work field and what It takes to make it happen. I was able to evaluate situations that I thought were complicated at first.
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 that the most important thing that I gained from The Hidden Genius Project is character development. I am who I am today because of The Hidden Genius Project and I am proud of myself. I think that If I didn’t participate in The Hidden Genius Project, I would still always be playing video games and not have anything going for myself. I would have also not learned anything about all of these tech fields which is what I want a career in now.
When you imagine yourself before starting The Hidden Genius Project, what’s different between that version of you and the current version? The difference between when I originally started and now is that I am a lot more confident. I have also learned to take leadership and advocate for myself thanks to The Hidden Genius Project.
In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program? I have remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project by becoming a Youth Educator for them and being a part of the Chevron/Autodesk Apprenticeship Program. It has been great being a Youth Educator for them over the summer because I was able to work with my peers and gain knowledge from the people around me. It was the first time that I was able to see the program in-person. That was cool for me because I was able to see everyone face-to-face and could just walk to them instead of scheduling a Zoom meeting.
In what ways has the staff of The Hidden Genius Project stayed connected to support you since graduating from the program? The Hidden Genius project has reached out to me multiple times to check in on me as a person and to offer great opportunities. One of those opportunities was an Autodesk Apprenticeship Program. The Autodesk Program was an apprenticeship for their software called Fusion 360. I learned how to use and create complex items in the software. They taught us how to create, render the object, and how to model it in many different environments. While I was in the program, I created a detailed handlebar, a drone, a tea kettle, and a modernly designed can. Now I have the power to create pretty much anything I want with this software. I know how to create, mold, create complex edges, and how to make intricate designs. The program was virtual until our last session which was in person. That was a great experience that I would only dream of.
If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say? Don’t limit yourself to what you can do and keep pushing yourself.
What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses? Don’t take time for granted and form a good relationship with your brothers.
Since 2012, nearly 8,400 students have revealed their genius through our Immersion, Catalyst, and Community Partner Programs, and so many more are waiting to shine.
HELP NEW GENIUSES STEP INTO THE SPOTLIGHT.
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