When you consider that only about one percent of venture funded tech startups are founded by Black people, it would be a huge understatement to say that African-American entrepreneurs are grossly underrepresented in the technology sector. A few organizations have emerged in response, teaching young people how to code, or helping startup founders with mentoring and funding. And now a new program is off to a great start, helping young Black men by staying with them through an intensive learning process.

The Hidden Genius Project (THGP) is a non-profit based in Oakland, CA that “provides Black male youths with the knowledge, skills, mentors and experiences to obtain and create technological jobs in this new, global, 21st century economy.” Founded by Jason Young and nine other partners, THGP teaches software engineering, design, and entrepreneurship through a unique two-year program.

The Project starts with a rigorous 8-week long summer school program where students put in 40-hour weeks to kick start the curriculum. Weekly learning sessions continue throughout the school year, and then the process repeats itself for a second year of study. Students cover topics like Web & Mobile App Development, Interface Design, and Lean Thinking leadership concepts. In their second year, students actually spend time doing paid custom development work for real clients. One-on-one mentorship, field trips, and building strong peer connections round out THGP’s offerings. Some students balk at the level of commitment required, but as a former engineer, I can personally attest to the amount of work it takes to become proficient in a tech career and this is just the type of preparation students need to get ready for those demands.

Currently, the Hidden Genius Project is open to male students ages 13-17 who are rising freshman, sophomores, or juniors in high school. THGP works with Oakland students presently, but hopes to expand to other cities soon. Click here for more information on how to get a young person involved.

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