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Oakland nonprofit aims to mentor Black young men through STEM

A nonprofit organization that started in Oakland with a mission to mentor Black young men and transform their life through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics now has spread across the country.

“I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’ve also been thinking about inventing,” Hayward High School freshman Adrian Buttram said. “I like tinkering.”

Those are some of the ideas born outside of the classroom and inside the walls of “The Hidden Genius Project,” a space for young Black men to learn technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills while creating community.

“I’ve learned how to use technology to its fullest capabilities, but not only that, but also learn what brotherhood really is,” Buttram said. “Being around people who look like me and are like me, and just having community overall not just doing STEM.”

The program is free and runs for 15 months providing mentorship, resources, and college advisement. It even pays “geniuses” for their tech skills. The goal is to equip the high school students with the tools to succeed in all aspects of life.

“There is a genius in all of them,” said Jabari Alii, The Hidden Genius Project’s Oakland site director. “It’s hidden. Sometimes it is hidden to them, sometimes it’s hidden to the rest of the world and we are just helping to reveal that.

Alii and the program are working to bridge the Black male youth unemployment gap with jobs in tech. While Black Americans represent 14% of the nation, only 7% are employed in tech.

“We saw an opportunity that wasn’t being extended to us and so we made sure to provide resources and the opportunities to these young men,” Alii said.

Twelve years after starting in Oakland, The Genius Project has now grown to seven different locations nationwide.

Alumni Caleb Ketema is now planning for college in the fall with hopes of eventually working in cyber security — a dream he did not know he had before the program.

“I feel like it changed my life because it gave me experience to learn how to code and to learn a different side of myself that I would have found without The Hidden Genius Project,” Ketema said. “I didn’t know I was interested in game design or coding. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do that. I thought it was just stuff that you saw on TV that you don’t get to experience.”

Creating new dreams and opportunities for Black youth and providing the guidance and tools to help them thrive in tech and in life.

“It helps me believe that really the sky is the limit,” Buttram said.

The Hidden Genius Project is currently taking applications for their next group of teens from not until Feb. 16. Applications can be filled out at

Source: NBC Bay Area

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