Neville Richardson III, Richmond Cohort 1 (RICH1), credits The Hidden Genius Project’s Intensive Immersion Program for his growth and maturity, “I feel like they helped speed up the process of making me more mature in preparation for high school.” In the program, Neville optimized the way he focused and improved his time management skills that helped him thrive with his commitments to school, sports, and coding projects. Neville plans to continue his success as a student-athlete and Computer Science major at Cal Lutheran University where he will begin in the fall on a football scholarship.

How have you been since completing the program?

I’ve been pretty good since finishing the program in 2018 and continued to stay connected to The Hidden Genius Project, especially Sean Valentine [Director of Strategic Initiatives].  

I transferred to St. Mary’s High School during my junior year because they provided me with smaller classroom sizes that helped increase my focus, a better sports recruiting program, and college readiness support. My GPA went from a 2.8 to a 3.4 and my basketball team made it to the state championships that year. It was a great moment for me because it was my first time going deep into the playoffs and I was really excited to play at this level. Unfortunately, the state championship game got canceled once California began to shelter in place.

The most challenging part about the shutdown was being at home all day, every day. It was a tough adjustment for me because I was busy playing in an AAU basketball league and high school sports, while being a student, and then everything just stopped. I found a part-time job at In-N-Out Burger and participated in Autodesk’s AutoCAD apprenticeship program [in partnership with Chevron and The Hidden Genius Project] to keep me occupied and busy. I have a basketball hoop in my backyard too so it gave me a chance to be outside and practice on my game a little bit.

Now I’m just excited to start my freshman year under partial scholarship at Cal Lutheran School to play football and study computer science.

How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?

I first learned about it from my history and English teacher who led an afterschool program for African-American students called Mafanikio. She shared the program flyer with me and encouraged me to apply as she knew I was into coding. I used to participate in a computer science class at Hercules Middle School Library and I enjoyed it a lot. I liked learning about websites and understanding how everything works. The Hidden Genius Project looked like a great opportunity to learn more about programming compared to what I was doing at the library so I applied. 

What was your experience in the program like?

More than anything, I enjoyed the way The Hidden Genius Project made the program a safe space and brotherhood for everyone. It wasn’t your normal summer school or coding program, but a place for me to meet new people, to learn, and to grow. 

Coming out of 8th grade, I was one of the youngest students in the program and I always had tons of energy which would disrupt programming at times. I’d easily get distracted, lose focus, and start clowning with my brothers during leadership lessons and discussions. This often became a challenge for me because I began to start falling behind on my coding assignments and projects. Landon and David [Innovation Educators] knew I was struggling and would always show me love and support. They would always tell me to calm down and make sure I stayed focused so I could catch up on my work. I really wanted to get things done and finish my website so I learned how to focus on doing one thing and finishing that first before starting on something else. It all worked out in the end as I feel like they helped speed up the process of making me more mature in preparation for high school.

During my time in the program, I discovered a deeper passion for computer science through our projects and going on business trips to these large technology companies. My favorite business trips were to Instagram, Electronic Arts, and Autodesk as we either went on a tour of their spaces, listened to a panel, or did some kind of coding activity. Now I’m majoring in computer science and am excited to find my own career path in it. 

Describe the website you designed during your time in the Intensive Immersion Program.

The website I designed was Nev’s Discounts and it was a place for users to be able to find exclusive or newly-released shoes at market value or less. Growing up I always had a hard time finding cool shoes in my size when they first got released and I never wanted to pay an extra $100 to $200 on the resale market.

While developing my website using CSS and HTML, I learned how to create headings, link pages together, insert text sections and boxes, and design layouts. This was my first website and it felt good to finish it. Truthfully, it looked better than I had imagined and was proud to share it with my brothers and peers. 

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

The most important skill I’ve learned in the program was time management. If I didn’t learn how to manage my time in the program then I wouldn’t be where I am today. Learning how to juggle school, work, and sports demanded a lot of my time and I couldn’t afford to mess around in the program anymore. It helped me stay on top of my tech assignments while balancing everything else I had to do.

I’d also say learning how to advocate for myself is another great skill. I realized that it’s okay not trying to do everything by myself and that I can always ask for help.

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

The Hidden Genius Project is different because the team is always there for you even after completing the program. You’ll definitely leave with more opportunities than when you first started. They also have way more resources with mentors and volunteers who are there to actually help you learn. The program uses more than one learning platform to help us master the material. Other programs only have one platform that you would probably do by yourself the whole time and when you complete it you’re basically done.

The Intensive Immersion Program is structured in a way that helped me learn the material easier because all of the lessons build upon one another. I knew what I was going to learn before starting a new section and that would help me retain the information. 

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

I joined the program at the perfect time as it gave me the stability and maturity I needed to go into high school. I know now I wouldn’t have 1% of the opportunities I have today if I didn’t join The Hidden Genius Project. Back then, my original career goal or dream job was to play in the NFL or NBA, but after participating in the Intensive Immersion Program everything changed. I’ve gained a whole group of brothers and connections, internship opportunities, technical skills, and mentors and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. 

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

During the pandemic, Sean Valentine, [Director of Strategic Initiatives] offered me a chance to participate in the Autodesk Fusion 360 apprenticeship program with other alumni. I had the opportunity to learn their 360 Fusion software platform which allowed me to sketch models in 3-D. We created small objects like whistles, stamps, and a nameplate. We also learned how to do exploded views of a model to see all of the parts and pieces of a product. They even showed us how to create a portfolio for all of our models. For my final project, I created a slim speaker that can fit behind the logo of a baseball cap which was pretty cool. I really enjoyed working together with other Geniuses in the program to design our projects, shout out to Machai Humphries, Device Brice, and Zachary Braxton. 

What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?

Make sure you really focus and get everything out of this program. Buckle down and take advantage of this opportunity as there are few things like this out there, and even fewer for young Black men. If you do everything you are supposed to in the program you will feel the benefits for sure.

Since 2012, more than 7,600 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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