Black-Owned Hidden Genius Project Gets $1M Grant from Google

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Google Black Youth
Google granted $500,000 to the Hidden Genius Project back in 2015. (Image courtesy of Google.org)

Google just took another huge step in its efforts to boost diversity in the tech world.

On Oct. 27, the tech giant announced a $1 million grant to The Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland-based group focused on boosting representation of Black male youths in the tech field while also working to change perceptions of computer scientists. Google.org Principal Justin Steele said the grant money “will help the org grow into new cities, train more staff, and expand their work to inspire more young people to pursue careers at the intersection of tech and their passions.”

In a statement, Steele said he was first introduced to the group in 2015 when they were finalists, then winners, of the Google Impact Challenge. Since receiving a initial $500,000 grant from the company that year, the Hidden Genius Project has reached over 1,700 Bay Area students through various events and workshops, including its 15-month CS intensive boot camp program.

The organization also exposes young Black youths to the tech field by pairing them with mentors who help foster their learning and equip them with the skills needed to excel in the industry. Google pointed to a recent Gallup poll showing that students are five times more likely to take up interest in computer science if they often see people who look like them working in that field. The study examined the under-representation of girls, Blacks and Latinos in the industry.

“As we often say, ‘you have to see it to be it,’ ” Steele wrote.

This is the company’s latest effort to break down barriers to the tech industry for nonwhite students. This summer, Google teamed up with the historically Black Howard University to launch a summer residency program for rising junior and senior computer science majors at the school.

Brandon Nicholson, executive director of The Hidden Genius Project, had this to say about Google’s recent grant:

“For the past five years The Hidden Genius Project has been able to serve youth in a holistic fashion, revealing their genius throughout the San Francisco Bay Area … Our efforts and results have positioned us to scale nationally, and additional funds from Google will help us reach our goal to provide career exposure opportunities like Tech Slam that offer entrepreneurship, leadership and technology creation skills to youth throughout the country.”

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