Jeremy Samuel, OAK5 Hidden Genius Alum, always had an interest in technology growing up, and after completing our Intensive Immersion Program, he knew he wanted to become a Software Engineer. Through The Hidden Genius Project’s alumni support system, Jeremy landed internships at Kaiser Permanente and Salesforce which provided him with the opportunity to flex his technical skills and expand his network. Jeremy is currently finishing up his freshman year at Loyola University Maryland (remotely), where he is pursuing a major in computer science.

How have you been throughout this pandemic?

I have been pretty good, attending school from home for my first two semesters of college. It has been challenging because my school is on the east coast, and I have to wake up early for some of my classes. My family has been working from home so our wifi has been full sometimes, but we have been dealing with it pretty well. I recently got a job working as a tennis coach a couple of days a week making a little bit of money on the side and it also helps me get outside the house too.

What was your experience in the program like?

I really enjoyed the program and it’s crazy how fast those 15-months go by. In the beginning, my cohort wasn’t really comfortable with one another when we started that summer. We were just a group of guys placed together and I didn’t know anybody, which made it hard for me to speak out and contribute. 

Our instructors kept telling us that we were going to be stuck together for 15 months so we all knew it was inevitable that we had to get to know each other, which we did. We would have breaks between lessons in the program, and during those times we all bonded and found common interests, especially when it came to playing video games. One thing that stood out to me is how we weren’t cliqued together in smaller groups within the cohort, we were just a really tight cohort. We all still keep in touch and check-in with one another from time to time.

Baba Eugene [Senior Innovation Educator] was one of our core instructors in Oakland, and he was always on our heads about learning the basics of computer science, especially since we had to create our own websites for our first project that summer. Growing up I was always interested in how websites work so this program was a cool experience for me. I ended up using HTML, CSS, and Javascript to help develop my website, which had a sports and gaming calculator feature that tracked highlights and stats of different sports. 

To this day, I still hear Baba Eugene in my head talking about computer science shortcuts and tips, as everything I’ve learned in the program is relevant to what I’m learning in my computer science courses at Loyola University Maryland. We’re using the same software, Pycharm, as all of the material was familiar, specifically for loops, while loops concept in javascript.

Overall, I feel that everyone should experience going through the Intensive Immersion Program. This program pushed my interest further in technology and for my future career in computer science.

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

For my final project, I created a GPA calculator app for high school students using primarily xCode and Swift. Any user could sign into their account, input their classes and grades, and then provide an average score on the 4.0 scale. One of the biggest challenges for me was figuring out why my app wasn’t linking to firebase (a database for logins) because I kept running into the same errors for three days straight. I was fishing around for solutions for so long that I had to ask my brothers for support, and they helped me figure it out. I was most definitely relieved when we fixed it.

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

I became a Boy Scout when I was 12 years old in an all-Black troop and obtained the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout at 17 years old. I had fun being a Boy Scout and learned a lot about survival, first aid, and leadership skills during that experience. However, we rarely talked about potential career paths or opportunities. 

In The Hidden Genius Project, their program really made me think outside of the box. I received a mentorship experience that wasn’t just about coding or entrepreneurship, but also about community, relationships, and who I wanted to become in the future. I felt a deeper connection with my brothers and mentors compared to the Boy Scouts because we met often in the program and they really help you reach your personal goals in life.

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

The most beneficial skills I’ve taken away from The Hidden Genius Project is learning how to code and network. Throughout the program, the mentors shared how important networking is and I understood during our business trips in the summer and even after graduating from the program. It is a necessary skill to have in order to be successful in life. 

The Hidden Genius Project gives you so many opportunities to meet new people that can lead to an internship or job one day. I wouldn’t have discovered that I’d be as interested in making beats or music if it wasn’t for The Hidden Genius Project introducing me to Kim Chouard, [Senior Manager, Global Philanthropy & Engagement at Salesforce] and the Salesforce Music for Change Program. We have a great relationship now and I know I could reach out to him for a recommendation for another internship or job someday.

My computer science skills wouldn’t be as good as they are now without this program. The Hidden Genius Project truly taught me the backbone of coding; learning the basics at that time was perfect for me because now I’m ahead of the game in college.  My inspiration for becoming a Software Engineer came from my growing interest in technology, but my experience in this program solidified my passion for coding from all of the business trips and internship opportunities in The Hidden Genius Project.

What was the most important thing you gained on a personal level (development, relationship, community, etc.) from participating in The Hidden Genius Project?

I’ve gained a supportive community of brothers and mentors that understand me for who I am and who I want to become. Even after graduating from the program, they continue to give me opportunities to better my future career as a Software Engineer, where I hope to create something that will have a positive impact on the world. Plus, I can always reach out to them whenever I need guidance on something or even a simple check in.

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

I would not be as interested in computer science as I am now without The Hidden Genius Project, especially in the program and internship opportunities. I could not tell you what I would be like because The Hidden Genius Project has completely shaped me into who I am and will be for the rest of my life.

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

I still feel like I’m in the program because of all of the support and opportunities they continue to offer me. After graduating, I participated in the Kaiser Permanente KP Launch internship program in the summer of 2019. I worked in their Technology Architecture and Design department where I was learning about the architecture and design behind nursing apps. I was able to review new software and products that were being tested to make the experience for the nurses easier when they do their job. I used a coding program called Flutter, which used Dart as the main language. This was a great experience for me learning how to work in a corporate environment.

I also had the opportunity to participate in the Salesforce Music for Change pilot program. I was able to work with a senior Salesforce Manager on an open-source game he created called Age of Makers, which allowed users to learn how to produce their own songs from scratch. One of my responsibilities was to play the game and try to find areas that I could fix or add using my coding skills, and I ended up adding a quiz to the game. Using HTML/CSS, I created a quiz that tested any user on their understanding of different music theories. I was also able to add my own example song to the game for first-time users which was pretty cool.

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

With The Hidden Genius Project, the opportunities are endless. Every week I get an email from them saying to participate in this workshop or participate in this internship program. Before I would ignore the emails until I realized that these opportunities come once in a lifetime. 

During my senior year in high school last year, Arnold Lopez [College Adviser] supported me throughout the college application process. I often met with Arnold one-on-one to talk about college life and understanding the difference between a BS and a BA degree in computer science.

Arnold also connected with Beyond12 for additional college advisor support. My advisor, Shawn, meets with me every 3-4 weeks and we discuss how I am doing with school. He has given me many college tips around eliminating procrastination, time management, and test-taking. It has been a supportive program and I continue to use the sources he gives me thanks to Beyond12 and The Hidden Genius Project.

What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?

Focus and utilize all the resources that The Hidden Genius Project provides because that one opportunity could open doors to even more possibilities that impact your future.

Since 2012, more than 7,000 students have revealed their genius through our
Intensive Immersion and Catalyst Programs, and so many more are waiting to shine.


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