Google Donates $1M To Hidden Geniuses, Underserved Young Black Men

Ebony Grimsley-Vaz
Written by Ebony Grimsley-Vaz

A black-owned tech mentorship program has received a $1 million donation from Google to help young black men excel in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Across the bay from San Francisco, the nonprofit Hidden Genius Project provides support in Oakland, California, where underserved young black men are often overlooked.

Hidden Genius was founded in 2012 by five black male entrepreneurs and technologists. Since its inception, it has served more than 2,300 youth. Almost 60 of the students who have participated in its 15-month intensive immersion program went on to develop their own tech products and businesses.

“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,” said founding Executive Director Brandon Nicholson.

Most of the Hidden Genius students who went on to college are majoring in computer science, Nicholson added.

Hidden Genius hopes to use some of the funding to expand to other areas where young black men could benefit. These include Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore/Washington, D.C., Miami, New York, and Sacramento, Nicholson said:

“There is any number of metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. where black male youth could benefit from holistic youth development programming that elevates them as leaders and teaches them to leverage technology and entrepreneurship to strengthen their communities.”

This is not the first time Google has invested in young black men or the Hidden Genius Project. In 2015, Hidden Genius won $500,000 in Google’s Impact Challenge. The public and a panel of judges selected nonprofits and voted on which ones were making an impact and deserved to receive the funding.

With its initial $500,000 grant, Hidden genius reached more than 1,700 Bay area students through its 15-month intensive computer science and entrepreneurship bootcamp. It held events and workshops that exposed young black men to mentors, basic computer programming and careers in tech such as sports analytics and video game design.

Hidden Geniuses
Photo: Courtesy of Google

Google has a “data-driven, human-focused philanthropy” policy to help drive decisions on where to donate $1 billion dollars it has promised for computer science training for kids, according to CEO Sundar Pichai.

The Hidden genius grant is in line with the research Google commissioned from Gallup Inc. that resulted in a 44-page report in 2016 titled, “Diversity Gaps in Computer Science: Exploring the Underrepresentation of Girls, Blacks, and Hispanics”.

This gave Google data to support minorities in STEM, however Google has not said how much of the funds will be dispersed amongst black youth. Many people are watching to see how much more will be used to help minorities and women enter careers in computer science.