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What Google’s grant means for The Hidden Genius Project

A young man in a suit speaks to a woman, who is looking at a laptop. Behind him, a screen shows “” and “The Hidden Genius Project.”

Editor’s note: Today’s post is authored by Brandon Nicholson, PhD, an Oakland, California native and the founding Executive Director of The Hidden Genius Project, a grantee. Brandon has dedicated his life to promoting equity in the public realm, particularly in the education space.

The mission of The Hidden Genius Project is to train and mentor Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities. Our vision is to be a global leader in this work and an incubator of dynamic young technologists (who we call Geniuses). Through our comprehensive support model, starting with our 15-month Intensive Immersion Program, The Hidden Genius Project works to bolster both workforce development as well as youth-driven leadership, resulting in stronger economies and more equitable communities.

Today, The Hidden Genius Project received a $3 million grant to expand our program to two additional cities and reveal hundreds of more Geniuses. This will afford us the resources to join arms with a broader array of communities to support and elevate the potential of our Black boys and young men.

We first connected with in 2015, when we were a finalist for the Bay Area Impact Challenge. I thought it was a long shot, but taking the risk of applying has opened up many pathways for us. After we found out we received funding, we partnered with TEAM Inc. to create the Tech Slam series, a program that introduces youth to the intersection of sports and technology. We have since hosted a dozen Tech Slam events across three continents.

Fast forward seven years and nearly 8,500 young people served globally, the impact of our work became clear when some of our Genius alumni recently visited Google’s Bay Area campus. These young men first visited Google as high school students, where they were closely coached through the experience. This time, they were confident, rising entrepreneurs capable of commanding a room.

A group of about 30 people stand smiling at the camera in front of a gray wall.

Alumni and staff from The Hidden Genius Project met with Googlers during a recent event.

Young men like Sir McMillan (from our inaugural Los Angeles cohort) pitched their business ideas to Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Sir bounced marketing ideas for his business off Google CMO Lorraine Twohill, and he and his Genius brothers shared their thoughts on Android OS with Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Platforms & Ecosystems. The experience signaled the richness of our progress over the past decade. We’re so excited to see where we go next.

Our alumni will continue to drive our organization forward — not only through their accomplishments, but also through their direct contributions as educators, mentors and ambassadors. For example, our alumni have served as the primary content facilitators for all our Tech Slam events, regularly inspiring others around the world, including each other. Kyron Loggins (from our fourth Oakland, California cohort) shares, “From student to alumni to employee, it’s just great to be able to experience this growing and scaling because it’s such a positive thing for the community of Black people everywhere.”

Looking ahead, and as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary, we now have the opportunity to expand to new communities. And we are fortunate to be able to lean on a wide range of supporters — including our alumni and funders — to ensure our success.

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