Tech is in Marques Brownlee’s blood. His father was an information technology consultant, and introduced his son, Marques, to the industry. After joining YouTube in 2008, the young Brownlee has made quite a name for himself.
Marques Brownlee is the 22-year-old tech-reviewing sensation behind the booming YouTube channel MKBHD (which stands for his initials, plus HD, or “high definition”). The channel features Marques and his reviews of the latest in technology, giving his take on some of the hottest trinkets out. But, as a young black man, some would consider him an unlikely tech-show host. A USA Today profile says it best: “That he’s an African American pontificating on the performance of an industry heavily criticized for lacking diversity adds to his mystique.”
Today, with nearly 700 videos, MKBHD boasts practically 3.1 million subscribers and over 367 million video views. The recent college grad has snagged a few high-profile interviews with Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside (who has since gone on to be the chief operating officer of Dropbox) and pro baller Kobe Bryant. Marques and Bryant turned sneaker-making on its head when they dismembered the sneaker and discussed the technology of devising Kobe 11—the last shoe Bryant will release during his active career.
“When I sit down and make videos, my No. 1 thought is that I want to make a video that I want to watch,” Marques told USA Today. “That it’s technical, watchable, easily viewable. There is that challenge of meeting experts and people who are just getting into tech. I definitely think about the intersection of these two groups.”
- Twitter followers 3
Arielle De Souza
“The STEM field celebrates big thinkers who tackle some of today’s complex challenges,” says Arielle De Souza, a 22-year-old University of Rhode Island senior. Arielle, a double major in ocean engineering and French studies, recently has returned from 14 months’ studying and interning in France. She continues, “URI’s motto, ‘Think big, we do,’ embodies this thought process, led by the example of many of my professors.”
This year, she’ll complete her capstone project on the development and validation of tsunami-detection algorithms by high-frequency radar to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. With her team, she’s learned about collaboration and revels in how exciting working in STEM can be. But with this revelation, comes a bit of understanding. “I was a perfectionist before college, and in STEM, nothing is perfect. The nature of science means that there’s always another answer, and that it’s more about the actual work you put into it than the results,” says Arielle.
After graduation, Arielle will be heading back to Paris to complete a master’s in maritime engineering, focusing on offshore-energy engineering. She hopes to inspire and motivate the next generation of black girls in STEM, while continuing to grow and improve. “I want to continue being happy, enjoying life and its opportunities, and becoming the best possible version of myself,” she says.
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John Henry loves the hustle, or so he says in his Twitter description. And after hearing of his journey to startup celebrity, there is no questioning his drive. A first-generation Dominican American, John Henry came from humble beginnings. He was born in New York, but raised in Florida. John moved back to the big city in pursuit of a career as a jazz musician, and took several odd jobs to keep the lights on. One of them was as a doorman.
With the help of some residents, he conceptualized an on-demand laundry startup. The doorman would amass a clientele, which included accounts with shows like Boardwalk Empire, Orange Is the New Black and Girls. And within two years of the laundry service’s supremely successful launch, John sold his first enterprise. The young entrepreneur was just getting started.
The 22-year-old went on to create an accelerator fund—Cofound Harlem. According to the National Journal, the accelerator supported four companies with mentorship, free office space and a $50,000 stipend. An ambitious businessman, John wants to build 100 startups in Harlem over the next four years, which, he tells the National Journal, can create 800 well-paying jobs. And Cofound Harlem’s corresponding $5 million venture capital fund, Cofound Ventures, is the first venture capital firm in Harlem.
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Brianna Fugate is learning from the biggest names in technology. Over the past few years, she has been groomed by Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code and interned at the White House with Megan Smith in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
One big moment for Brianna came this past summer during White House Demo Day. Bryant, whom Brianna affectionately calls Ms. Kim, was delayed by the security detail and was going to miss her speech. Brianna stepped up to the plate to speak on behalf of the organization that had helped get her to that point. “It was befitting for me to share the history of Black Girls Code’s founding and the impact it is making on the lives of young girls interested in computer programming, including my own,” she tells The Root.
Brianna recently landed a summer internship with Intel as a CODE2040 fellow in Santa Clara, Calif. “Whether I am on campus, at the airport, having dinner, or hanging out with friends, my mindset is always wondering about a way to use coding and technology to make our lives easier or improve the human condition,” she says.
She is working with her community, too. She is on the advisory board at the M. Agnes Jones Elementary School in Atlanta, to “bridge the imagination gap” for young students. “Being a mentor not only helps me to learn and give back to my community, it offers visibility and exposure to which girls of color can relate and say, ‘I would love to try that,’” Brianna says.
Ultimately, Brianna hopes to become a software engineer and social entrepreneur.
- Twitter followers 12
Omari Abdul-Alim wants to spread his love for music, one note at a time. An accomplished violinist, Omari is a third-year musical-performance major at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. With a minor in Spanish, he hopes to continue to teach music to underserved students in Latin America. His first stop? Buenos Aires, Argentina, in a study-abroad program this summer.
“Once I decided that sharing my music with the world is what I wanted to do, I soon began developing what are now my three primary mediums for doing so: performing, teaching and composing,” he tells The Root. But Omari’s desire to teach started at an after-school program at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Seattle, his hometown.
While he was in high school, he volunteered with Seattle Music Partners for two years, tutoring first-time violin students in the fifth grade. He remembers how excited the students would be during each one-on-one session. “It took me quite a few years to accept that the music I create with my violin speaks to people’s hearts; and that if I love music, the arts, and what they do for the world, I won’t let such a gift go to waste,” he says.
- Twitter followers 18
Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence “dreams of taking over the world with radical POC art and destroying white supremacy in hot pink lipstick,” she writes for Renegade, an art and advocacy collective of students of color at Harvard.
Kimiko is a co-founder of the magazine, the first of its kind for people of color at the Ivy League school. She is deeply committed to this work and it’s not her first foray into shaking up the status quo at Harvard. In 2014, she wrote and directed I, Too, Am Harvard, a multimedia project that empowered black students to claim their place on campus. There was a play of the same name with undergraduates who re-enacted statements from interviews Kimiko conducted in the fall of 2014.
“I believe in the unapologetic existence and unfiltered expression of black people and people of color,” she told the Harvard Crimson. “Which shouldn’t be interesting. But, unfortunately, in this world, and in this nation, and on this campus, it’s still a radical concept. The work in my time here has all been a part of that, and working for that.”
Kimiko, who graduates this spring, is black and Asian, and speaks to her identities in a piece titled, “A Sharp White Background,” in which she recounts her experience growing up in Washington, D.C.
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Jeremiah Grant Jr.
When Jeremiah Grant Jr. sets out to do something, he does it big.
At just 20 years old, he has already logged more than 10,000 community service hours. Upon graduating high school, he was awarded $800,000 in grants and awards for college and research. Jeremiah is a Gates Millennium scholar, a Bezos scholar and a Coca-Cola scholar. He also was a 2014 fellow with the Future Leaders Foundation, attends Cornell University and interned at JPMorgan Chase.
But for all the endorsements from multimillion-dollar companies, nothing satisfies him more than giving back to his community and paying it forward to the leaders of tomorrow. “My greatest joy is showing people what is within themselves,” he tells The Root.
After being named a Bezos scholar in 2013 and attending the Aspen Ideas Festival, he went back to his hometown of Queens, N.Y., to mentor young people in his community. With a $1,000 grant, he started an education project in his neighborhood to help more young black men get into college. He has used his winter breaks from college at Cornell to read over scholarship applications from underprivileged students. Four of the students he has mentored have been awarded over $1 million in grants and scholarships for school.
Jeremiah, who is majoring in Africana studies at Cornell, hopes to improve health outcomes for the global community. As part of the Future Global Leaders fellowship, he has explored the public health care sector in New York City, how research is being translated into improved health outcomes and how the public sector responds to health needs of communities during crises.
This spring, Jeremiah went to Jamaica to study the effects of global capitalism on the island.
- Twitter followers 28
Yara Shahidi stole our hearts as the smart and sassy Zoey on ABC’s Black-ish. But beyond the cameras lies a 16-year-old with great depth of character. She is keenly aware of how African Americans are portrayed in the media, particularly in this era of Black Lives Matter, and is judicious about the roles she takes.
“Before I auditioned for Black-ish, I received scripts that portrayed black people in a negative and stereotypical way,” she told the New York Times in a November interview. The actress continued, “But Black-ish is a more positive portrayal of what it’s like to be black in America.”
In 2015, Yara was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for best breakout star. She won an NAACP Image Award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series, and the NAACP also recognized her for her commitment to service and scholarship.
The teen actress is also a humanitarian and an activist. In October, she spoke on a panel at the Paley Center for Media titled, “Cracking the Code: Diversity, Hollywood & STEM.” Now, she’s on the cusp of launching Yara’s Club, a mentoring group with the Young Women’s Leadership Network.
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Jewell Jones is 20, in school and can dab on ‘em like the best. But he isn’t your average college student. In November, he was elected as the youngest City Council member ever in Inkster, Mich., a suburb of Detroit. He hopes to make big changes for his city, including revamping parks, improving roads and starting to change the culture of the police department. “I will be out there with our youth to make sure I’m bringing up the next generation of change,” he told the City Council on his first day on the job.
He hopes to start a youth council to “begin a pipeline to direct our youth from the community toward more active roles in society,” he tells The Root. He is currently a student at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, majoring in political science and finance. He participates in the Army ROTC, the Black Student Union and other on-campus organizations. The big moment of inspiration to run came during the Congressional Black Caucus conference in 2014, after years of attending church and community events with his parents. He was joking with a former City Council member about a potential campaign, and eventually, he took himself seriously.
And this is only the beginning. Jewell Jones is only at his first stop on his political path and he says he plans to “keep on running.”
- Twitter followers 120
Darrius Atkins has been on a mission of service ever since he was on the junior usher board at his church. His mission now? To help break the school-to-prison pipeline and reduce educational and economic inequalities in his hometown of Chicago.
“I want to help create an environment in my community where a young child can play in a park without the fear of being shot, an environment where resources aren’t scarce, and where talent and hard work isn’t hindered by an unleveled playing field,” he tells The Root.
For now, Darrius is a senior at Morehouse College, where he is majoring in political science. In 2015, he was selected as a Harry S. Truman scholar, the only HBCU student to receive the honor that year. And that was just the first of several awards that Darrius has won in his last year of college. He is a public policy and international affairs fellow at the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium scholar, and a Monarch scholar, as well as has been awarded several other high honors.
Upon graduation, he will attend law school at one of eight (and counting) prestigious schools that have already sent him acceptance letters. He hasn’t made it this far at such a young age alone. He credits his grandmother’s sacrifices for his success.
“My grandma is my greatest source of inspiration because she selflessly put her life on hold to give me and my little brothers a fighting chance,” he says. “She is my hero, and every day I strive to make her proud.”
- Twitter followers 9
Since Jasmyne Graham was 6 years old, she’s known that track and field would take her places—and quickly. This season, as part of the University of Southern California track team, she hopes to make it to the NCAA finals as a freshman in the 100-meter hurdles.
“It feels amazing to be a part of the track team here because it has always been my dream, and it is finally a reality,” she tells The Root. And, of course, she wants to make it to the Olympics one day.
If her high school accomplishments on the track are any indication, she’ll one day follow in the footsteps of her sports hero, Florence Griffith Joyner. In 2015, Jasmyne was named Gatorade’s California girls track and field athlete of the year. She was also the California state champion in the 100-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter intermediate hurdles. In 2014, Jasmyne won the state’s indoor long jump title.
Jasmyne, who is majoring in digital journalism and broadcasting, volunteered at the 2015 Special Olympics. She also has dedicated her time to a local program mentoring girls.
- Twitter followers 23
Like many other students of color on college campuses across America, Jamal Encalade wanted to see some changes at his school, Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala.
“Since I’ve stepped foot on the hill, I’ve felt at home, yet I also felt that something was missing,” he said in a Facebook post. “What was missing was representation. … I’m so excited to be part of a group that aims to make monumental changes on campus. So, who’s ready to watch the legacy?”
He and seven other minority men started the first or, as they call it, “Legacy” chapter of the Men of Color Council Inc., an “academic, personal, and professional network of support.”
In November, racist and threatening statements were posted on Yik Yak, a social app where users can post messages anonymously. So, he and other members of the council demonstrated on campus. “I am inspired by the possibility of change,” Jamal tells The Root. “Knowing that systems, rules and people can be subject to change inspires me to continue my fight for social justice.”
He is majoring in communication arts with a concentration in public relations and advertising.
- Twitter followers 34
Gabrielle Jordan’s passion for business has been within her since birth. She is continuing a six-generation tradition of entrepreneurship in her family. At 9, she started an upscale jewelry business called Jewelz of Jordan after her friends would buy her creations right off her neck. She is also the co-founder of Excel Youth Mentoring Institute, which inspires young people to “excel beyond expectations.” Now, she’s the chief creative officer at Gibstr, an online platform for teens.
“When I reflect back on my life, I want it to be filled with big dreams, big actions and big accomplishments, and that’s what I want for others,” Gabrielle says on her website.
She’s been recognized by Inc. magazine as a kid who “won the internet” last year, and was honored at BET’s Black Girls Rock! in 2015 as a M.A.D. Girl who is making a difference in her community. She already has a TEDx Talk under her belt, too. As a youth ambassador for the Tigerlily Foundation, she supports the mission for breast health and education for girls and women.
And yes, she’s only 16, but she’s also already written a book on entrepreneurship, The Making of a Young Entrepreneur. As for her future, she has that all mapped out. She wants to be a gemologist, a New York Times best-seller and continue to donate to charitable organizations.
- Twitter followers 22
Joye Nettles is a techie. The 22-year-old is a recent graduate of the College of Charleston, where, along with two classmates (who are also women), she developed an Android app to help Charleston citizens find places to park. It’s called SpotIt.
During her tenure at C of C, Joye made her mark as a leader. She created a new organization to support her female classmates in the STEM fields: Women in Computing (WiC@CofC). And Joye was the president of three organizations: Women in Computing, South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Needless to say, she finished her undergrad career with a bang.
Now, Joye works as a junior associate consultant at ThoughtWorks, a global software development firm in Dallas. The techie is passionate about helping women—especially African-American women—learn to code. One day, she hopes to open a school in her home state, South Carolina, to teach and empower youth in the world of technology.
- Twitter followers 73
Allen Collier IV
Allen Collier IV’s love of engineering started with a wooden boat and a few solar panels. He was in his sophomore year of high school, and his friends persuaded him to join a club that would compete in a Solar Cup against other high schools in Southern California.
“The experience of being on a team and learning how to create a boat that runs well got me into the mindset of being an engineer who could try to solve other problems,” he tells The Root.
After having fun with that, he went on to solve another problem: finding a clean way to charge phones and mobile devices. So, he hitched his charger to the back wheel of a bike so that the energy from pedaling would charge up the phone.
“I like how that solving problems can shape a better future for the world around me,” he says.
Fast-forward to today and Allen is in his second year at Pasadena City College, majoring in civil and mechanical engineering. One day he hopes to use his problem-solving skills with the United States Forest Service to “help the environment in any way,” he says.
- Twitter followers 29
Maya Nicole White
Maya Nicole White wants to change the world, one word at a time. She’s been writing poetry since she was 10 years old and has already self-published her own poetry book, Dreams on a Butterfly’s Wings.
“Writing has the power to make people feel, and I believe that can lead to positive change in the world,” she tells The Root.
In 2014, Maya competed in the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition in Las Vegas, where she presented a documentary on suicide in honor of a classmate who had taken his life in his senior year. She is currently writing a book on healthy living and wants to lead kids toward making better choices. In Houston, she has painted murals across the community to help beautify her city. This summer, Maya will travel to Ecuador to study abroad.
She is a 2012 alum of the Disney Dreamers Academy, hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. In 2013, she was one of 23 young women selected to attend the Black Girls Rock! camp in New York City.
“The greatest advice I have received is to get paid for something I’d do for free and never stop chasing after my dreams,” she says. “I think it’s a message for everyone to do what you love, and you’ll eventually inspire others to do the same.”
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Johnny Means is a chess king. He has been playing the game since he was 10 years old. Now at 16, he’s trying to have an impact on other young people in his neighborhood in Wilmington, Del.
“I am trying to change lives,” Johnny told the News Journal. “Chess naturally does that. You meet friends through chess; you get new experiences through chess. It is a skill, so get as many skills as you can in life. It doesn’t hurt.”
Johnny, who is a junior at Delaware Military Academy, volunteers at Neighborhood House, where he helps kids with homework and then teaches them how to play chess.
After seeing progress in those children, he and his family started the Wilmington Urban Chess Initiative, a nonprofit organization with a mission to bring chess to kids in underserved communities around Wilmington and bring tournaments to their neighborhoods. WUCI held its first chess tournament in January when more than 50 children, including some ranked players, participated. Players hailed from Maryland, Pennsylvania and, of course, Delaware. Johnny says he hopes to bring about more tournaments like this so that kids from underserved communities can be exposed to the benefits of playing chess.
“Kids who play chess tend to have better test scores; they tend to be able to focus more,” he said. “So it’s really just a good game for multiple things.”
Johnny is making a big impact on kids in his communities, and several leaders are taking notice. He won playing against Delaware Gov. Jack Markell last May. Months later, he met Vice President Joe Biden and talked to him about the Wilmington Urban Chess Initiative. And in 2015, he was the youngest person to be included on the list of Top 10 Movers and Shakers in North Delaware.
- Twitter followers 54
With light and airy cupcakes from her business, FairyCakessc, Thomasena Thomas has been delighting her classmates and teachers with delicious desserts in the halls of her South Carolina high school.
“We hope to bring back the delicious memories you once had as a child, one heavenly dessert at a time,” she says.
She started selling the cupcakes with her sister for fun, but then it quickly became a booming business. For the past three years, Thomasena has been taking culinary-arts courses to perfect her baking skills. She hopes that her customers take a bit of sweet inspiration from her, as well. She tells The Root that it’s important for young people to find their passion and to “pursue it at any age.”
“What excites me most about baking is being able to brighten someone’s day with the confections I bake,” she tells The Root. “Being a teenage entrepreneur is hard work, but I love it.”
And she’s passing on that work ethic. On Fridays, she and her “FairyReps” host FairyCakeFridays at several schools in the Florence, S.C., area, and together, they dish out about 300 cupcakes. Last year, Thomasena attended culinary training at the Disney Dreamers Academy, hosted by Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. She hopes to attend Francis Marion University next year and wants to continue to build her business on campus.
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LaCrai Mitchell was a junior in high school when she knew, unequivocally, that she wanted to be a journalist.
“I wasn’t a ‘news junkie,’” says the recent college grad. But she was fascinated by the CNN documentary special Atlanta Child Murders. LaCrai continues, “What I will never forget is how this story made me feel. Through the heartbreaking interviews with family members who had lost loved ones, I remember feeling their pain.”
And she went on to study journalism at Florida A&M University; through storytelling, LaCrai found her passion. “[Storytelling] gives me the power to give people a voice—people who sometimes can’t speak for themselves.”
She’s had two summer internships with CBS News while at FAMU. Most recently, she landed a news associate position at CBS News. The budding journo is driven by her “home team,” which is the affectionate name she has given to her family and closest friends. They inspire and motivate her through prayer while she goes on to achieve her greatest life goals.
Fear? LaCrai Mitchell has no time for that—she’s committed to achieving her goals, rather than running from them: “Don’t ever let the fear of not accomplishing your dreams stop you from pursuing them.”
- Twitter followers 1,336
Malachi Byrd is Washington, D.C.’s inaugural youth poet laureate. A native of the nation’s capital, he uses poetry to bring his voice to past experiences.
“Poetry has helped me discover a passionate community and an impactful platform to make social commentary,” Malachi tells The Root. “It has pushed me to commit to studying the many complex structures that marginalize people, and also has helped my complacency with my perspectives.”
In 2015, Malachi released a collection of poems, Which Picture Would They Use? He released his first collection of poems, P.E.M.D.A.S.: Please Excuse My Developing Absence of Sentiment, in 2013. This year, he is set to release his first full-length poetry book, as well as start a tour called The Crossover, where he will talk about his transition from poverty to Princeton.
“My mother, Alisha Byrd, inspires me to find happiness in the small things,” he says. “Despite the obstacles we were dealt, she’s taught me that my circumstances don’t make my character.”
In February, Malachi participated in the Womanist Mystique, a symposium on intersectional feminism at Princeton, where he is majoring in sociology. The 19-year-old is already looking far into the future for the impact that he wants to make on his community. He’s calling himself the “first senator of Washington, D.C.,” set to run for office in 2032.
- Twitter followers 62
Margan Ferguson is a leader wherever she goes, whether it is with Camp Fire, an organization that inspires young people, or on her cheerleading squad at her high school.
For the past two years, Margan has volunteered as a counselor at Camp Fire. In January 2015, she was awarded the Don Domas Youth Award, for outstanding community service.
During her junior year, she became head captain of the varsity cheerleading team at West Orange-Stark High School in Texas. She has been named a four-time All-American cheerleader and attended a weeklong cheerleading camp in Hawaii for cheerleaders who show amazing leadership. Margan will graduate No. 2 in her class, with college credits to boot, and was the senior class president.
- Twitter followers 1
Josiah Joel Davis
Josiah Joel Davis is a creator and game designer for Nurdy Muny Inc. Josiah conceived PaperChase, an endless flying game, when he was 13 years old. Initially, PaperChase was simple—players would fly a paper airplane through a city—but through his creation, the teen is receiving some recognition. For example, PaperChase won bronze at the 2014 Sacramento, Calif., ACT-SO competition.
Josiah has a love-hate relationship with technology. “I love the connectivity of it, yet in that same aspect, I hate it,” says the now 16-year-old. But through technology, he creates digital art, videoFX, music and 3-D modeling.
His favorite artist, Tyler, the Creator, and his parents, inspire Josiah, who is particularly motivated by people who think outside of the box. It follows that one of his favorite quotes is by Ray Bradbury: “When given ruled paper, write the other way.”
With that, Josiah encourages future leaders to be different and to think freely. “Don’t stop dreaming because goodnight is a greeting to the dreamer,” Josiah says.
- Twitter followers 171
Simone Biles is gymnastics’ best-kept secret. But, riddle me this: How could a decorated athlete like Simone be anyone’s secret? The gymnast-prodigy became interested in the sport as a youngster. According to Sports Illustrated Kids, Simone’s day care took a trip to a local gym on a rain-day contingency plan. She imitated the gymnasts as they practiced, and coaches noticed her innate talent. So began Simone Biles’ gymnastics career.
Fast-forward a decade or so, and Simone is making history. In December, Simone was named the U.S. female Olympic athlete of the year. The 19-year-old also has won 14 world-championship medals in three years—10 of them gold. According to the Associated Press, her world-championship medals are the most won by an American woman, while the 10 golds are the most won by a female gymnast. Ever. The rising star forges forth as the first woman to win three consecutive all-around titles at the World Gymnastics Championships.
In 2015, Simone Biles signed an agreement with Octagon, going pro. With her first Olympics just months away, she sees nothing but the gold. By the end of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, we venture to guess that Simone Biles will most certainly be a household name.
- Twitter followers 2
Ryan Rucker wants to “revolutionize the way people make reviews about everything.” His first step toward making that dream a reality is his app Charmer, which he describes as a “fun and easy way to describe your friends and experiences.” The best part? The reviews are just three words.
“We are trying to make reviews like you see on Yelp or TripAdvisor, and we’re trying to make them shorter, more simple and more mobile,” he tells The Root. “It’s important for millennials to be able to share things—and do it quickly.”
Charmer, which is in beta launch on iOS, is rolling out to a number of colleges soon, Ryan says. He also says the idea has attracted investor interest from several venture capitalists. Ryan graduated from Morehouse College last spring and got a job working for Deloitte Consulting. But he says he’s had a passion to build websites and apps for years.
With a small investment from his grandfather, whom he calls a big inspiration, he decided to leave his gig at Deloitte to focus full time on Charmer. It was a big risk, but he hopes to inspire other young people to go for their dreams, he says.
“Just do it,” he says. “I know a lot of people try to learn a lot of things before [they] take a test, but you’re never going to know everything. You just have to do it, and learn as you go.”
- Twitter followers 12
For inspiration, Rebecca Williams recalls advice from her sister Elizabeth, based on her experiences on a trip to Kenya, and words from her “big brother,” Usher. Yes, that Usher. Both Williams sisters are part of New Look’s Moguls in Training program, which is part of Usher’s nonprofit organization. In 2011, Rebecca Williams had a life-changing experience herself when she visited Kenya with the program. After visiting a school in the slums of Kibera that had been set on fire, Rebecca knew she had to do something to change the lives of kids all over the world.
“New Look shifted my paradigm on life when I went to Kenya,” she says. “I understood that you must be a conscious consumer and receiver of everything, never abandoning your power to analyze all the truths you are expected to believe. When you do this, you learn how you can connect with everyone, any place, anytime, and in any country. This experience changed how I see people and the world.”
Shortly after, with a big push from Elizabeth, together they decided to start Books IV Bonding in September 2014. The organization provides books to inspire young leaders to create change in their communities.
“What is most exciting is the opportunity to empower the students in the same schools back in our hometown of Detroit, Michigan,” she tells The Root.
In November of that year, the Williams sisters were reunited with Usher for a live webcast to talk about their budding business. With book publisher Scholastic, their big brother came through once again, with a donation of 2,000 books. Fast forward to 2016, and Rebecca sees much growth for Books IV Bonding in the near future. They are currently working on a pilot program for international book pals, reading mentors and a group community service initiative to launch in fall 2017.
- Twitter followers 20