Today, we live in an era where traditional career paths are being re-evaluated, and skill set is now the new name of the game.
Adrian Devezin out of Atlanta is the creator and founder of Empowr, a nonprofit that develops programs for high schoolers to learn technical skills to position them to secure six-figure jobs upon graduation. We recently caught up with him to talk about the program and how it’s transforming students’ lives who are changing the game for themselves and their generation.
Why do you think that Empowr is an in-demand program for high schoolers?
Empowr is essentially dismantling the many systemic obstacles that our people face, and in its place, creating the school-to-career pipeline. We enable high schoolers to spend their four years learning a skill that allows them to earn approximately six figures at 18. We don’t just teach them the skill either; we partner with organizations that enable us to have a near 100% hire rate for our graduates. Completing our program sets Black students up for a tremendous amount of success in life.
However, it’s not all about the money. In year two of our program, students will design, create, and release their own apps and businesses. In addition, our students go through leadership training, including meeting civil rights leaders, Q&A sessions with CEOs, and more. We don’t just create Black wealth; we create Black leaders.
Why have you dedicated yourself to the Empowr movement?
I feel as if my whole life has been leading up to Empowr. As a child, I did not do well in the education system. I was an intelligent kid who was barely skating by in school. I had a few good teachers (shout out to my 8th-grade math teacher), but overall, my teachers just assumed I was a failure. I was confused and questioned the system. Therefore, I eventually gave up on the education system and began working retail jobs. While in a call center, I decided I would teach myself software development. Every day after working my 9 to 5, I began working my 5 to 9. I would stay up late learning more and more about software development and creating new projects. A couple of years later, I landed my first job here in Atlanta.
I was flown out by the Big 4 tech companies such as Google and Facebook within six months. There was still a problem though, none of the people at these companies were Black. Despite many friendly faces, I didn’t feel like I belonged. As time went on and I grew more successful, I decided I was going to change things. I was going to ensure every kid like me had the same opportunities.
How did you discover the solution to the problem?
I began doing research, and the statistics were alarming but not surprising. Over 43% of Black students did not have access to the math and science classes to become college-ready. Black schools were given fewer resources, and school districts were creating a prison pipeline from our schools. Regardless of their potential, Black students would have very little chance of success. People were speaking about these things, but they kept referring to it as a leak in the pipeline; I disagree. The pipeline functions as it should; it was just never built to include Black children. I knew that this had to be fixed. Empowr is the creation of years of research, observation, feedback, and experience.
Talk about your partnership with other organizations to aim for a 96% hire rate?
It can be challenging for new engineers to get their foot in the door, so I began partnering with recruitment networks and organizations to ensure all my students would have a job. By creating this network, the recruiters know my students’ exact level upon graduation and can place them with confidence and ease.
Recruiters will also work with the students beforehand to help them tailor their résumés and prep for interviews.
What are the criteria—does everyone who applies get accepted?
Our classes are limited for now, which means not everyone gets accepted. We look for motivated and determined students. You do not have to make straight A’s (I graduated high school with just a 2.0 GPA) or be a science whiz. We look for students who are good problem solvers and who put in the work. The program spans multiple years, so we are only accepting 9th and 10th-grade students. We plan to have different offerings in the future for upper-level high schoolers.
You are also looking for volunteers to support the program—can you share what qualities, skills, or attributes would be of interest?
We have plans to scale our program nationwide in the coming years. We need the help of the community to do that. If you can, we appreciate all donations to Empowr. Donations go directly to supporting our students; you can find out more here. For those who do not have the means to donate now, Amazon has a program where Amazon will donate money to Empowr every time you shop on their site. You can set it up quickly here. If you would like to help us directly, we are looking for a wide variety of volunteers. We need a lot of people for the next generation educational platform that we are building.
Empowr’s goal is to create content that the upcoming generation enjoys consuming. This means TikTok stars, social media influencers, musicians and artists, or anyone with a following. So, if you are part of this upcoming generation and a content creator, please reach out.
Tech leaders or experts should also reach out to us directly. We are looking to have you speak to our students and contribute to our content. We are also looking for lots of people with technical experience. If you are a Kotlin, Swift, Web, UX, SQL, or Machine Learning engineer, we could use your help. We have some fantastic projects kicking off and need as much help as possible.
Our email contact is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To enroll, visit empowrco.org and click on The Royalty Program.