After dropping out of college, Adrian Devezin ended up working at a call center but desperately desired a life change. In between taking calls, he taught himself software development through tutorials and applications from his phone. Within months, he created his first app that ranked as the top (No.1) new finance app of the month in the Play Store. Devezin was inspired to create and launch Empowr, a 501(c)3 organization, to democratize education and establish the school-to-career pipeline for Black youth. This is accomplished by teaching career STEM skills to underserved Black high school students.
Devezin understands that college is not an option for everyone. This reality disproportionately affects Black people, therefore, Empowr provides a solution where underserved youth will have a fair chance to acquire marketable skills as anyone else. The first course teaches iOS development and helps students learn how to develop and release iPhone applications. The program is designed to start and remain with students throughout their high school careers to gain the real-world skills needed to secure an in-demand job before becoming adults. The average iOS developer makes close to six figures; therefore graduates will have the capacity to support themselves, their families and be an asset to their communities.
The focus is on acquiring high paying skills to assist with breaking poverty cycles that plague our communities. -Adrian devezin
According to Devezin, African Americans have been trendsetters that still contribute to platforms like Facebook (Dank memes), Twitter (#blacktwitter) and a plethora of other contributions. These platforms would have little to no social relevancy if it were not for our community contributions. Yet, the diversity ratio for these companies is only 2% Black. Our young generation should know and learn that they can do more than just use these platforms. They can also create them.
Presently, the program is grassroots with donors solely making it possible. In conjunction, Empowr is in continual communication with various companies that are extremely interested in the outcomes of the students. The purpose is to establish relationships so companies can invest in our students through sponsorship. Devezin further explains, “the average company pays over 50k to recruit an engineer, but it only costs Empowr a tenth of that to fund one student for the full program.” It would be a strategic partnership because companies can reduce their recruitment costs by saving over 50k, increase their diversity, and reduce their false hire rate. It is a win-win opportunity.
Although classes are in session, there is a waiting list for students to sign up for the next program offering. Capacity is limited but anyone can sign up via the website. They consider students who love to problem solve. Most think they must be good at math to be a programmer. Although it does help, all that’s required is the skill in problem-solving. For example, the capacity to analyze a big problem and break it down into smaller, manageable steps. If this can be demonstrated, they would be a great candidate to be a software developer.
Empowr not only teaches career skills, but their mission encompasses the need to raise informed leaders. For example, while teaching students about programming, their class notes incorporate facts about the importance of mental health, black history, good nutrition, financial tips, and more. It is understood that since they are high schoolers, they may not see the full value of this immediately; but they will recall when faced with various life situations and experiences. The projects students complete are community-oriented and centered around using technology as a tool to build communities. While students will earn a lucrative salary after graduating from the program, it has been instilled within the curriculum that community comes first.
Devezin shares five benefits that the Empowr program delivers:
- Graduates will be able to obtain high paying careers which helps end poverty cycles and reduces crime rates. This will also aid in buying back our neighborhoods.
- Graduates would have received material packed with self-growth facts, tips, and advice that promotes better eating habits, sense of pride, good mental health, knowledge of their past, and more.
- Graduates would have learned “how to learn” which is one of the most challenging but crucial skills. Courses are structured, so students learn how to research and obtain any skill they desire.
- Graduates have been exposed to industry leaders and different businesses. Students have the chance to directly talk to people in their future careers and build personal relationships.
- Graduates would have understood and embraced the importance of community which cannot be overstated. Since the core of our courses is centered about community, we show our students how they can make a real and relevant impact.
Empowr plans to work directly with schools to integrate programs as part of their curriculum. A course will always be offered online to ensure as much access as possible. Working directly in schools ensure that every student can join. Those plans also include working with sponsors to offer students internships while in high school so that before they graduate, they will have a well-rounded resume and on the job experience.
As part of its sustainability program, Empowr releases app and services to help the community. This year, Empowr News was released, the first and only Black news platform. It is available on both iPhone and Android and enables you to read local and national news from Black publications (such as Black Enterprise) and content creators. The service is free and helps support the community and black publishers to gain more exposure and revenue opportunities.