Jaylen Mitchell (Oakland Cohort 6 Hidden Genius Alum) fondly remembers the experiences and lessons he learned in our Intensive Immersion Program, sharing how “The Hidden Genius Project has been a game-changer for me.” Despite moving across the country and going through a period of uncertainty, Jaylen credits our program for giving him the tools and skills to bounce back and start his own website design business. Now a budding 19-year-old entrepreneur and man of many talents and interests, Jaylen is committed to building a career rooted in cybersecurity, while also exploring his passion for investing in real estate.

How have you been? 

I have been doing great. I’m currently focused on continuously improving my knowledge base in the fields of technology and business, while also studying real estate. I’m also interested in cybersecurity since it’s a growing industry that is currently undervalued. 

How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?

I first learned about The Hidden Genius Project when I was enrolled in a program at the David E. Glover Center Technology Center in East Oakland. During my time there, I became aware of The Hidden Genius Project as they were running programs right across the hallway. I was intrigued by their mission and activities, so I decided to learn more about their work and how they were making a difference in the community.

What was your experience in the program like?

The Hidden Genius Project was a truly enjoyable experience for me. The highlight of the program was undoubtedly the field trips we took to large tech companies, as they provided a firsthand glimpse into the vast array of opportunities available in the industry. Initially, I found myself overwhelmed by the multitude of concepts presented, but I approached them methodically, breaking them down into manageable pieces. Whenever I faced challenges, I wasn’t afraid to seek guidance and support, which helped me navigate through the difficulties. Ultimately, this program significantly enhanced my critical thinking skills and instilled in me a sense of confidence and resilience.

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

During my first summer, I created a website featuring a description of my younger self and the classic Snake game using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Overcoming the challenges of coding and debugging was rewarding, especially when I achieved smooth user-controlled snake movement. This experience laid the foundation for my growth as a web developer.

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

The Hidden Genius Project distinguishes itself from other mentorship or training experiences by prioritizing community and fostering connections among individuals with similar backgrounds. It goes beyond skill development by creating an inclusive environment where participants can connect, share experiences, and support one another. This emphasis on community enhances the overall learning experience and empowers participants both technically and socially.

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

The four biggest skills I’ve attained in the program are coding, networking, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship. From the beginning, having the opportunity to learn coding skills early on equipped me with the ability to develop and manage complex sites and software that will contribute to the digital world.

Going on business trips also taught me the value of networking. I developed my ability to network, which helped me build professional relationships, expand my connections, and create new opportunities for collaboration.

In the program, we also learned about entrepreneurship and financial literacy fundamentals, which provided me with the mindset and tools to identify opportunities, take initiative, manage money effectively, and start my own business. 

How do you think your path might have been different if you hadn’t participated in The Hidden Genius Project?

The Hidden Genius Project has been a game-changer for me. After high school, I was feeling pretty lost, but their guidance gave me a clear path. It’s not just about tech stuff; they’ve shaped my whole life. For example, the website design business I’m running now? That all started with skills I picked up from them. I can’t imagine where I’d be without their support.

Overall, The Hidden Genius Project introduced me to a dynamic community of individuals striving to collectively improve themselves and others in similar pursuits. This experience boosted my confidence in succeeding within the tech industry.

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

Without the support and guidance of The Hidden Genius Project, I would have likely experienced a lack of vision and struggled with imposter syndrome, especially as there weren’t many individuals who looked like me pursuing the tech sector.

In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program?

Despite moving across the country and not being physically present in Oakland for the entire program, my connection with The Hidden Genius Project remained strong. I stayed involved by reaching out to Brandon Nicholson [Chief Executive Officer] via text to express my desire to visit the team and share updates about my journey. This consistent communication showcased my ongoing commitment to the program even from a distance. It’s a testament to the lasting impact that The Hidden Genius Project has had on my life and my dedication to staying connected with the community.

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

Since completing the program, the team at The Hidden Genius Project has stayed connected and provided support through regular email updates and social media as I’ve been watching their expansion. They’ve also been proactive in sharing funding opportunities for tech companies founded by program graduates.

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

Embrace your uniqueness, and trust in your abilities to fearlessly chase after your aspirations with determination.

What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?

Be proud of your place in this incredible community, dedicate yourself to diligent work within it, and trust that your efforts will yield remarkable rewards in the long run.

Since 2012, nearly 10,300 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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