Program promises to unleash 'hidden genius' in Oakland's young, black male population

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Nearly 100 students, age 13 to 17, gathered in downtown Oakland to celebrate the end of an intensive program that gave them leadership and technology skills they wouldn't get anywhere else.

The program is called "The Hidden Genius Project," a non-profit born and based in Oakland with a mission to give young, black men opportunities in the technology industry.

"We are an organization that trains and mentors black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship and leadership skills," said Programs Director Akeem Brown.

The co-founders are all black, male entrepreneurs who wanted to solve a specific problem. They hatched the idea in 2012.

"Quite frankly tech is a booming industry and why aren't we represented," said Ty Moore, a leadership coach and serial entrepreneur.

Brown said he appreciated the founders' vision to change the negative narratives about young, black men.

Every year, the Hidden Genius Project takes a new batch of students and puts them through a 15-month immersion program.

James Green and Owen Garrick are just two of their budding entrepreneurs.

"I built a website called Sneakerhead Central where sneakerheads can buy and sell sneakers from their own collection," said Garrick who hopes this is the beginning of a long career, "I see myself as very successful. I want my website to be up there with Foot Locker."

"So, Fix My Kixx is a mobile market place for the service of shoe customization and restoration," explained James Green who said the program changed his life. "The main thing I learned was more than entrepreneurship but how to fuse entrepreneurship to be a leader in your community."

The Hidden Genius Project is taking applications now for next year's batch of students.

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