Prior to Mekhi Burgess’ first day in the Young Men of Color program at Clark University in Atlanta, he loved STEM, but didn’t see how he could make a career out of it. But after going through a three-week summer immersion experience on the Atlanta, GA campus, he knew he wanted to major in computer science.
Since 2015, Verizon Innovative Learning’s Young Men of Color program has been providing underprivileged middle school students nationwide with extracurricular learning experiences based on STEM enrichment projects. The program is inclusive and welcomes all genders and non-binary youth. It’s part of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan to help move the world forward for all, and help ensure that no student is left behind. Through partnerships with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Hispanic institutions, and community colleges, the program exposes students to the tech careers of tomorrow – and gives them the tools to thrive in them. And it works – like Mekhi, 98% of students who took part in the program say it increased their interest in STEM (SRI, 2019).
Clark Atlanta University has been a partner every step of the way. Entering its sixth year with the Young Men of Color, the program is hosted in the school’s dual-degree engineering program, making the most of its status as a member of the country’s largest HBCU hub. Over the years, program coordinator Robyn Clayton and her team of instructors and mentors have provided hundreds of students with the tools they need to reimagine the future. “Clark’s program is special because he’s here at Clark University in Atlanta. It’s just a perfect match for students to have that social and emotional connection with them so they can just learn about campus life and be a student, ”says Clayton. “It impacts them psychologically, so they know they can be there someday.”
Mekhi says attending the program in college was crucial for her future. “It was an experience that really changed my life. I learned a lot of things that I had never learned before in my life that still help me to this day, ”says Mekhi, entering his final year of high school in Douglasville, Georgia, with a GPA. 3.9 in advanced courses.
Mekhi’s father, Andre Burgess, is excited about the transformation he has seen in his son. “It makes them feel like, ‘I can use the talents that I have right now and I can do things that could absolutely impact the future,” he says.
Mekhi is currently touring colleges in the South with the intention of majoring in computer science and video game design. “I really, really love games. If I could get a place in a really big games company, I would love to make other children’s lives happy,” says Mekhi.
Watch and hear from Mekhi, educators and mentors about what makes Clark Atlanta University’s Young Men of Color program life changing.