September 22, 2022

By Rodd A. Amos

Contributing Writer


On Tuesday, September 27, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at The Proud Bird Restaurant on Aviation Blvd near LAX, The Hidden Genius Project will spotlight the technical ingenuity of Black youth and young men at its 2022 End-of-Summer celebration.

The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities.

The non-profit was founded by five Black male technologists who discovered their genius in high school. Los Angeles Site Director Kayla Mason spoke with the L.A. Watts Times.

L.A. Watts Times: What was your impetus to create the non-profit?

Kayla Mason: The organization was founded 10 years ago out of Oakland due to the juxtaposition between Silicon Valley and the lack of opportunities for Black youth to get access to the tech industry. (Executive Director) Brandon Nicholson and the founders thought how great it would be to create a structured environment to support tech leadership and coding skills for youth in the Bay Area.

We started with about five geniuses and have now scaled to a cohort of 24 geniuses at each site that go through a 15-month intensive. The goal is to create a brotherhood, a sense of community, and to launch their businesses as founders.

LAWT: Day one of a new session; what’s the first thing you say to your students?

KM: Day one is really about building a sense of leadership, ownership, discovering community norms, and getting an understanding of what their commitment will look like for the next 15 months of this 800-hour intensive.

LAWT: Can you give us a few examples of the types of technology being showcased?

KM: Backend development, Python, JavaScript, app development, CSS, website development, game development, and Scratch coding that allows young people to create digital stories, games, and animations.

LAWT: What are some of the top trends to watch for in the future of work?

KM: In terms of computer science: Business development, start-up fundraising, venture seed funds, and investment opportunities to help support and sustain Black businesses. Also, paid internship and fellowship programs. We proudly partner with major companies like Autodesk and Kaiser Permanente.

LAWT: You currently have four sites: The Bay Area, Detroit, and South Los Angeles. Talk about your teams of instructors.

KM: We have a robust team of Innovation Educators who are graduates of our 15-month intensive, and who are now full-time staff members.


They’re sent out to the community to build out our community partnership programs, which are six-to-eight-week workshops that our youth educators are leading and teaching.

Our two genius Fellows have been promoted to senior youth educators. Now they are full-time staff members who’ve been deputized across the country to build out our national footprint.

LAWT: Can you talk about your alumni of students? Where are they now?

KM: Ninety percent of our alumni go off to attend four-year universities. We have a full-time team and a college advisor that supports them as they figure out what to major in or what they want to explore. For our alumni that are currently highschoolers, we create regional experiences such as internships related to their passions or interests, i.e., science, music, entertainment, designing, music, teaching, etc.

Our young people have been working for the past three years building out projects and businesses and developing their computer science skills. This is an opportunity for you to ask them questions directly about the program and what they’ve been able to accomplish. Come see what real genius looks like in L.A.

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Category: Community