When Machai Humphries (Richmond Cohort 2), joined our Intensive Immersion Program, he went in without knowing what to expect. Looking back as an alum, Machai said he’s gained brothers, connections, and opportunities. “The Hidden Genius Project changed how I think of things — how I go into things and learn,” he said. “It changed my perspective of the world.” Now a rising freshman at San Jose State University majoring in advertising, Machai is as talented as they come, and is excited to leverage his creative and entrepreneurial skills to build his own graphic design empire.
How have you been?
I’ve been doing well! I just graduated from Berkeley High School and am making decent money as a floor epoxy specialist. They pay for my lunches so I can’t complain, but I am trying to get back into creating art again. I am currently in the process of trying to start my own graphic design business making commission art. I also plan on creating a new website with everything I learned so it could help support my graphic design business.
How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?
My brother’s mom told my parents about The Hidden Genius Project and they signed me up for it. At first, I didn’t know what to expect and thought it was just going to be purely about coding so admittedly I was a little bummed out. But after hearing how we also learn about things such as our history, talk about current world events, go on field trips, and make valuable connections with my peers and brothers, I knew this was going to be an experience I couldn’t miss.
What was your experience in the program like?
I loved the program. When I first joined The Hidden Genius Project, I was going into 9th grade so I was one of the youngest Geniuses in my cohort which was kind of intimidating. I often kept to myself and just observed everything happening around me, but over time I learned to adapt and become more social and open with my peers.
Ultimately, The Hidden Genius Project changed how I think of things — how I go into things and learn. The program opened my eyes to several different opportunities that I have at my disposal and what I could do to impact this world in a positive way. Because of my passion for art and animation, I knew learning about entrepreneurship, technology, and leadership were things that could help me pursue a career in this field.
I enjoyed going on business trips during the summer because it gave me a chance to socialize and network with professionals who had similar interests as me. Besides visiting the super cool offices, it was great to understand how they made money as a business and how each person contributed to their success. It changed my perspective of the world
During my time in the program, I also made a bunch of friends in my cohort such as Devin Brice, Avin Keith, and a few others who had similar interests in creative art and animation. Now that I think about it, my cohort had a lot of diverse personalities that made the program fun for me. David (Richmond Site Coordinator and Senior Innovation Educator) and Abraham (Innovation Educator) were both amazing instructors because they were always good at teaching us in a chill manner, but being firm with us when we needed it.
Describe the app you designed during your time in the Immersion Program.
I am an artist and I would hear stories of artists not getting paid for their artwork or clients not receiving their artwork after payment. So for my app project, I came up with Comissive, which was intended to connect creators and clients on a single, verified platform to help facilitate artwork requests and transactions, and reduce scams. I was envisioning features such as direct messages, multiple payment options, a verification process, and so much more. It was a pretty big idea so I wasn’t able to finish the entire project, but I was proud of what I was able to develop and accomplish with this project.
How is The Hidden Genius Project different from other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?
It was cool to be around people who looked and shared the same experiences as me. The connections I made in this program are boundless. They gave me so many opportunities to meet new people and create strong friendships with them. The Hidden Genius Project heavily specializes in that while being able to teach all of the other topics we learn in the program.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you?
I have to say my social and maturity skills for sure. Freshly coming from the 8th grade I was a shy and slightly immature individual. Being surrounded by peers already in their junior year of high school made me nervous. Throughout my time I learned to overcome my shyness and adapt to my surroundings and how to communicate with older kids.
How do you think your path might have been different if you hadn’t participated in The Hidden Genius Project?
I definitely would’ve looked at the world way differently. The Hidden Genius Project has opened my eyes to the many opportunities someone has by simply talking to someone and learning these skills. I also wouldn’t have made the friends and peers on this journey over the years. For that, I am eternally grateful.
In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program?
In 2020 I had the opportunity to participate in the 3-D modeling Autodesk with some other Geniuses. It was a paid internship that allowed us to learn about 3-D models and how they are made. I was really surprised to learn how much math was involved when it came to modeling objects which made it challenging at times. However, I was able to create some pretty cool objects such as lamps, lightbulbs, and a mug. [Check out Machai’s artwork HERE on Instagram.]
Because of my creative skills, I also had the chance to be featured in Instagram’s @design Black Design Visionaries campaign last year all thanks to The Hidden Genius Project. It was great to see my artwork and style being featured on Instagram.
If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say?
The program may seem hard, but just get through it.
What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?
Your opportunities are plentiful so make sure you take full advantage of them.