Malachi Poole (Oakland Cohort 4 Alum) vividly remembers how hands-on and supportive The Hidden Genius Project was for him during his high school years. In his words, “The opportunities provided to us in the program were fun because of the fantastic educators and mentors working hard to ensure that we had the best experiences to connect, learn, and grow.” Malachi credits The Hidden Genius Project’s Immersion Program for helping him be the best, confident version of himself, noting learned skills like “bouncing back from setbacks.” Now a 22-year-old English major at Morehouse College, Malachi shares his growth as a writer and leader.

How have you been? 

I’m doing well. Over the last two years, I’ve been attending Morehouse College and my plan is to graduate with my English and Literature degree, with a minor in psychology and journalism in 2025. Although it has been a rocky start for me coming out of the pandemic, I’ve been working hard and enjoying the experience of college, including embracing the challenges that come with it. 

My relationship with my family has never been better. I’m lucky to have both of my parents in my life as well as a little brother who I love very much. They have been super supportive throughout my college education and continue to love me unconditionally.

How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?

My mother’s friend recommended that I apply for the program when I was in middle school and that’s when I first learned about The Hidden Genius Project. At that time my mom was focused on keeping me involved in as many youth programs as possible. Up to that point, I was already participating in Jack and Jill and the Boy Scouts. And as you can imagine, I wasn’t super excited to start another program yet again. However, once I was introduced to my brothers I was hooked. 

What was your experience in the program like?

I was always learning new things throughout my entire time in the program, and that is what made The Hidden Genius Project so unique in my eyes. I also really enjoyed connecting with my brothers throughout this experience and learning valuable life lessons. Whether it be learning the names of different computer parts and their contribution to big-picture ideas and products, or making trips to other tech companies around the Bay Area and networking with their talented employees, there was always something to gain from being in the program. 

My favorite memory was the task of building an app from scratch for the first time. Knowing that coding is something I often struggle with, the educators encouraged me to ask my peers for support on the coding portion of the app while I worked on the user interface. Initially, I was uninterested in the idea because I thought that it would be considered cheating or plagiarism, but the educators reassured me that working in partnership with others to solve a problem is a good thing. Because of this experience, I am now much more open to finding help and collaborating with others. Overall, the opportunities provided to us in the program were fun because of the fantastic educators and mentors working hard to ensure that we had the best experiences to connect, learn, and grow.

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

Comet was a marketplace app I designed that was dedicated specifically to selling used computer parts. My inspiration for the app came from my desire to build my very first computer all on my own. During this time I had trouble finding an easy way to both shop for used parts and compare them to newer parts so I could stay within my budget. Because of this issue, I created Comet which could help source hardware from popular online marketplaces and give the user a streamlined interface to compare parts and prices. This project taught me the importance of a clean, intuitive UI (user interface) and how its implementation process can make or break an app. 

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

The main difference I’ve found between The Hidden Genius Project and other youth programs I’ve participated in is the sense of family and community I felt. Every morning I’d show up happy and excited to get the day started because of how comfortable I felt with the people there. I met so many interesting people and made several new friends, some of which I still talk to on a daily basis. Altogether, I have had some incredibly eye-opening experiences in my life while I was in the program, especially during our summer business trips to Facebook and Google. 

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

Because of The Hidden Genius Project, I’ve been able to develop my communication, problem-solving, and storytelling skills. 

When I first joined the program, I didn’t understand the nuances of networking and the magnitude of first impressions. With the support of the staff, I learned how to give an elevator pitch about myself without oversharing, and concisely explaining an idea. To this day, this skill has helped me better understand how to introduce myself, whether in an email or in person. Plus, the practice gave me an extra boost of confidence in my own skills as a networker and made me feel less shy about telling people my story. 

I’ve also learned how to bounce back from mistakes and challenges because of my experience in the program. Making mistakes is something we all have experienced and many people don’t know how to bounce back from failure. Before I joined The Hidden Genius Project, I struggled with holding myself accountable for the mistakes I made. This in turn made it very difficult for me to learn from my mistakes instead of making excuses. Specifically, Akeem Brown (former Programs Director), cared enough about me to explain why mistakes are so important and what to do about them. Now, I feel proud of the responsibility I have, and when mistakes are made I gladly hold myself accountable.

As a writer, I pride myself on being able to convey an idea, tell a story or make an argument in such a way that the audience is able to not only understand but personally relate to my words. In the beginning, I had trouble understanding why anyone should read my work and if they did, what would keep them engaged till the very end. So without having an explanation of the importance of a narrative hook my writing would always suffer. That was until I met Sean Valentine (Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer). With his help, I was able to finally figure out what my writing was missing—a good hook! To this day, I often feel my writing could use a bit more polish but Sean was the one who inspired me and gave me the confidence I needed to put pencil to paper. I will always remember that. 


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

The sense of community The Hidden Genius Project provides us with is something that I will never forget. If you’re a new applicant and feeling nervous about meeting new people then The Hidden Genius Project is for you. I often struggled with social anxiety and trust me when I say that the brotherhood of the program is second to none in terms of making you feel like family.

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

Since graduating from the program, I’ve had several opportunities to be an ambassador for The Hidden Genius Project at various events and programs. Earlier this month I helped support them at a tech event for students in Atlanta at Codehouse Tech Exposure Day (see highlights HERE). I’ve given speeches, interned at Kaiser Permanente’s KP Launch Program, and supported other incoming Geniuses with their assignments and projects. These experiences have helped me navigate these professional work environments and better prepare me for similar job opportunities in the near future

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

Just do it! Seriously, I’d tell myself not to worry about how people see you and just be yourself. If you think you’re a nerd or a tough guy, it doesn’t matter. because that doesn’t matter as soon as you step foot into the program. You realize quickly everyone is here to learn and grow. 

What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?

Be thoughtful of others and be yourself, that is all it takes. 🙂

Since 2012, nearly 9,800 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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