Before joining The Hidden Genius Project, Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Dudley, OAK5 Hidden Genius Alum and Youth Educator said he never thought about the importance of connecting and supporting the community. After participating in our Intensive Immersion Program, Nate’s perspective on life changed dramatically. Through experiences like chatting with Andre Iguodala about representation in technology, or empowering youth in South Africa during our recent International Tech Slam program, Nate has learned how crucial it is for him to be a leader for his community and give back.
What was your experience in the program like?
I got to see everything from a new perspective. On the second day of programming during my first summer, I remember when Akeem Brown (The Hidden Genius Project Programs Director) made our cohort do a community walk activity around East Oakland in our entrepreneurship session. He encouraged us to check out the neighborhood to see what problems the community was facing. During the walk, my brothers and I all saw trash, bad roads, fenced up houses, and inadequate parks for children to play in.
When we got back to the classroom, Akeem shared the importance of how we as Geniuses can help create change in the community by developing solutions to these issues using technology. During our debrief, we broke into groups and talked about several ideas to help transform East Oakland with technology. The community walk exercise really showed me how capable we are of solving issues in our communities.
The brotherhood aspect of The Hidden Genius Project was important too because I always had somebody to lean on, especially when I needed help. Even after our time together for 15-months, the connection between my cohort is still very strong. We still communicate through our group chat and reflect on our time in the program and what we’re doing now.
How is The Hidden Genius Project different than other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?
For one, The Hidden Genius Project is different because all of the mentors have been in our shoes and know where we’re coming from. To keep it real, the staff are more like us so it helps us connect, helps share that bond, and helps us grow as a community. I believe that is really important.
Also, the program provides us with so many opportunities during the program and after when we become a Hidden Genius Alum.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you?
Having confidence and believing in myself was one of the biggest skills that I learned in The Hidden Genius Project, especially as a Youth Educator. You must have confidence in the knowledge that you’re teaching to all of these young people in our workshops and how it can positively impact them.
Learning how to manage my time and having a growth mindset were two other big skills that I have developed. I really want to keep growing, learning, and trying new things. When I go to college, I plan on jumping outside of my comfort zone and study abroad in Germany for a semester and experience different cultures and places.
How did you manage playing sports, maintaining academic excellence, and finishing your app in your (junior year) of high school?
It all came down to time management. I didn’t go out often and hang with my friends because I was so focused on my school work. Early on in high school, I realized how much my grades would suffer when I slacked off and didn’t do my work to the point where I’d fall behind.
I quickly learned that I had to rely on my resources — my teachers, coaches, and The Hidden Genius Project — to bounce back and stay on top of my work. My mom was also super helpful with keeping me on track too. Often times my mom shared how she was juggling a lot herself when she was in high school and even at work too. She would support me by helping me plan out my week in advance so I can get my work done on time. Every Sunday we sat down together and would go over my week based on schoolwork, extracurricular activities, sports and The Hidden Genius Project. Then every Friday night would be my time to relax and reflect on how I made it through that crazy week with my friends and family.
Describe the app you designed during your time in the Immersion Program.
The basic function of my app was to provide a platform where young entrepreneurs of color could go to promote their companies, while also sourcing investment from potential funders who wanted to support their idea or product.
How did it feel to have your younger brother, Aiden Dudley – Hidden Genius Alum (OAK6) during your second summer and his first summer in the program?
It’s crazy because Aiden knew more about computer science than me coming into the program. However, I quickly shared with him that computer science and technology is only one component of the program. I told him The Hidden Genius Project also mentors you on how to be an entrepreneur and leader inside and outside of the program.
In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program?
The first thing that came to mind for me was when I had the opportunity to have lunch with Andre Iguodala at The Hidden Genius Project’s headquarters. Andre shared how important it is for Black people to have a seat at all of these technology companies, and particularly for us as Black men to learn how to code and be an entrepreneur.
I’ve also been a Youth Educator since 2019 and have been able to support many events with The Hidden Genius Project at West Oakland Youth Center, Basketball Decoded with the Golden State Warriors and Tech Slam South Africa in Johannesburg. All of these opportunities opened doors for me that I could have never foreseen and it has helped me become a better Youth Educator, leader, and mentor.
Tell us everything about Tech Slam International and your trip to South Africa. What was that experience like?
Visiting South Africa was a completely new experience for me. I had the opportunity to meet students from the LEAP Science and Maths Schools. During the workshop, I was able to hear the challenges the students were facing and we helped them think through possible solutions using technology, just like my community walk exercise with Akeem. The passion they shared during the brainstorm was incredible. Just the other day I reflected on how I was able to connect with them on this trip through our activity. I believe we inspired and encouraged them that they too can have an impact on their communities.
I feel really lucky and privileged for what we have in the U.S.. I know that if you put any of those students from LEAP Schools into a U.S. school, that they would be a top performer because of their drive, passion, and hunger to succeed.
We know you have another brother, who is eager to get into the program. Do you have any words of wisdom for him and other students that are applying to be in the program?
Yeah, don’t take The Hidden Genius Project for granted. Try and make as many connections as possible and have an open mindset. Get to know your brothers, peers, and mentors on a deeper level and be respectful to everyone as they are there to help you. Besides, you never know who could be watching you so always be on your A-game.
It’s different because they consistently show genuine love to every student in the program, including the alumni. All of The Hidden Genius Project staff are very adaptable to each student’s needs when it comes to supporting their various interests and passions. I remember in my cohort how some Geniuses weren’t interested in the technology part of the curriculum, but loved learning about entrepreneurship and leadership.