Statistics show that one in three young people report not having an adult mentor and even worse with minority youth, one in four public school youth drop out of school before finishing high school. I’ve been on a quest to learn more about what is being done to encourage today’s youth through guidance and supplemental coaching and mentorship. I learned about several organizations making strides and The Social Engineering Project (TSEP) was one of them that I had the opportunity to be apart of and witness their effort and contribution the the cause.
On October 4, 2019, myself and other minority mentors headed up into the woods and into a rural campground just outside California’s Santa Cruz Mountains to the setting of the TSEP event. The group of mentors consisting of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and practitioners ventured into this setting to coach and develop capacity to a group of 70 inner city youth from all areas of Northern California.
Invited to speak as well as participate in this third annual camping conference, I was overwhelmed by the amount of care the conference organizers took to prepare this effective event. The third of its kind, the campout sought to bring value to youth by targeting their interests and well being and bring all of that, plus some, to a location they can unplug, focus and absorb it all.
Like many of you, programs of this type were nonexistent in my youth thus the same for Program Director and President, Kevin L. Nichols, who worked with a team of mentors/counselors to arrange the opportunity with seemingly minimal effort.
The camp was named “The Social Engineering Project Overnight Camping Conference” after the founder Kevin’s varied pursuits in the areas of technology, political science, law and higher education. You might not have known his name, but Kevin has been visible speaking at rallies, conferences, engagements all over the country including his former campus, UC Berkeley. He has worked diligently to make an impact on young people in a variety of ways. Once the face of LinkedIn, Kevin has helped to establish the TSEP pipeline which have introduced technology pathways to many formerly disconnected youth.
What better setting to connect youth to STEM, self help, encouragement and goal focus, then off the grid and out of their everyday normal setting?
Every day, the teens woke up to a vigorous schedule which included early morning focus groups just after a hearty camp-wide breakfast. The days focused on a purpose which was identified as a necessity with high school students. Day One had workshops which addressed life skills, purpose and meaning, Day Two addressed STEM and career goals. The workshops on Day Three, the final day, were geared toward college admission and planning as well as leveraging social networking and brand adoption. Throughout the conference, the students were encouraged to conceptualize a brand, develop a pitch and make a presentation to their peers. The culminating activity, enjoyed by all, included the students utilizing information learned in the previous days as well as persuasive techniques to encourage others to buy in to their brand.
I was excited to be apart of this program for two reasons, one) because youth aren’t introduced to STEM as fast as its continuing to grown and two) life skills is no longer primitive in public schools. Youth today are lacking the encouragement and guidance to want to be great.
The conference presented a wealth of new information delivered in a variety of ways embraced by the young attendees. Sponsors like GoPro, Northrup Grumman, Stanford, Cal Berkeley and Apple made a huge impact on all who attended. The youth were able to interact with attorneys Juan Walker and Michael Thomas who addressed Mindfulness Practices. This combination of informational strategies made the event a tremendous success for all.
Programs like TSEP help identify key components needed in our youths journey to adulthood from a social, psychological and comprehensive standpoint. If you’re looking for information on TSEP and their array of programs geared towards youth, visit their website at thesocialengineer.org.