Prior to joining our Intensive Immersion Program, Odera Nwosu (Oakland Cohort 7) considered himself a “shy” person. While honing his skills to develop technical projects, pitch business ideas, and help others, Odera realized he had a lot to say and a lot to offer. After Odera’s first year in the program, he says his “perception of shyness dissipated.” As he awaits the start of his freshman year at San Francisco State University this fall, Odera looks forward to pursuing his career goal of becoming a data engineer.
How have you been?
I am excited to go off to school at San Francisco State University to major in computer science and statistics. It’s pretty cool too because my sister will also be heading to medical school so we’ve both been celebrating. I’m also thrilled with my job as a Youth Educator this summer at Youth Uprising with The Hidden Genius Project. It’s been a great experience helping the OAK9 Gold and Black cohorts turn their ideas into functioning mobile apps.
How did you first learn about The Hidden Genius Project?
I first learned about the program through my sister, who heard about it from Abraham Keleta [Senior Innovation Educator]. I really liked the idea of coding with a group of like-minded Black youth, especially the money we received in the program.
What was your experience in the program like?
I had a great time in the program. Besides the delicious lunches, my highlight was definitely building out our own apps. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do. Despite being in lockdown during the pandemic, I never felt a moment of loneliness during the summer. Every day, the Geniuses and I hopped onto Zoom helping each other out with our coding errors, sharing our frustrations about them, and at the same time laughing about those same issues.
Describe the app you designed during your time in the Immersion Program.
The first app I made was a recipe assistant app called “Fufu”. It functioned similarly to TikTok, however, videos could be clicked on to reveal recipe steps for the video of food. The purpose was to provide a user-friendly way for youth to engage with cooking. From a technical perspective, I learned OOP, app development with Flutter, UI design, and using APIs and JSON data. Overall, I enjoyed the process of creating apps as it was definitely a rewarding experience, even in the most challenging situations.
How is The Hidden Genius Project different from other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?
You never struggle alone. The Hidden Genius Project staff always insists that we help others around us instead of zooming off ahead. Grounded in Ubuntu, we are trained to be accountable to ourselves and to our brothers. I’m pretty good at programming so at other coding programs I could zoom off and just leave everyone out. But with The Hidden Genius Project, it doesn’t really matter how good I am if I’m not able to use my skills to benefit others.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you?
My strongest skill would be my ability to code. Because of my experience in the program, I’m able to develop live mobile apps using Google’s Flutter framework and Dart and design beautiful software applications which are user-friendly, even for people with dyslexia. I am also comfortable speaking and presenting in front of large audiences. Now as a Youth Educator, I’m able to incorporate all of these skills as a mentor to current Geniuses in the program.
What was the most important thing you gained on a personal level (development, relationship, community, etc.) from participating in The Hidden Genius Project?
Personally, the staff has made me confident in myself which I really appreciate. With the constant encouragement and positive affirmations, I’ve built the courage to try out new things and accomplish larger programming projects. Even when I felt stuck there was always a staff member willing to help me out with whatever project I had in mind.
When you imagine yourself before starting The Hidden Genius Project, what’s different between that version of you and the current version?
I have a low volume when I speak which convinced me that I was a “shy” person during my first year of high school. But by the end of my first year of being a Genius, my perception of “shyness” dissipated. As I grew my skills in creating websites and apps, business pitches, helping others, and critically thinking, I found myself realizing that I had a lot to offer and say. So, while I still have a pretty low volume, I now know it doesn’t make me “shy”, I actually have something worth speaking up about!
In what ways have you remained involved with The Hidden Genius Project since completing the 15-month Intensive Immersion program?
After graduating the program staff really supported me in applying to colleges. They helped me out with my college essays, financial aid, and deciding what schools I should apply to. Along with that, they’ve provided scholarships and work opportunities that I could take advantage of. I also now work as a Youth Educator in the App Development track, which is really fun.
If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say?
You don’t know it yet, but this is the program you are looking for.
What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?
Honestly, none of the projects are going to be easy and there is no shortcut to learning, but, with the ideas that drive your creativity, with the power each line of code and successful compilations yields, the possibilities you can create and the people you could help with those possibilities, any shortcuts are a disservice to what you are as a Genius.