Like many families across America, the Youngs had holiday traditions. On Christmas Eve, they ate gumbo at Grandma’s house. On Christmas Day, they opened gifts near the tree. And on the morning after Christmas, they relaxed. That is, until 2001, when Jason Young, then a college sophomore, learned that he had just spent his last holiday in his family’s Inglewood, Calif., home.
On that Dec. 26, the Youngs’ house, already in foreclosure, was taken from them for good. “It’s a surreal experience to have someone knock on your door and ask you to leave immediately,” he says. “We’d always struggled with money, but I had no idea we were going to be evicted.” The eviction may have ruined a favorite holiday for Young, but it taught him an important lesson about fiscal responsibility—one that has informed his career since.
After his family lost their home, Young learned that his single mother had accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in credit-card debt in an attempt to save her home; she eventually filed for bankruptcy. “It became clear to me that the math didn’t add up,” he says. “I’d always been conscientious of money, but the experience made me want to make even better financial decisions. I never wanted to be in that situation again.”
And he didn’t want other low-income kids to find themselves in that situation either, which was one of the reasons he founded Mindblown Labs in 2011. The Oakland, Calif.-based company creates mobile educational games geared to improving financial literacy among underserved youth. But as Young taught students how to manage their money, he also recognized a need to help them learn how to make that money in the first place.
This prompted him to co-found The Hidden Genius Project, a two-year training program designed to teach young Black men science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills through lectures and project-based workshops.