Finding Hidden Geniuses

Connecting Saint Mary’s with young black men learning technology in Oakland.

Sean Valentine '14 works with high school students at the Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland nonprofit that helps prepare young black men to enter the high-tech work world.

When Sean Valentine ’14 transferred to Saint Mary’s from Laney College, he juggled his economics studies with raising two small children and working fulltime as a personal trainer. His Saint Mary’s professors were instrumental in his collegiate success, he said, all of them “engaging, encouraging and patient.”

Now Valentine works as the operations director at the Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland nonprofit that connects black male youth with the skills, mentors, and experience they need to work in the technology arena. Students in middle and high school participate in day-long events and workshops, or a 15-month immersion program—all for free.

And just like his SMC professors supported him, Valentine is there for the Hidden Geniuses. “We debunk the idea that they don’t belong and that this space is for someone else,” he said, calling the Hidden Genius work very Lasallian, bringing academic opportunities to those who might not have a chance otherwise.

Shortly after joining the Hidden Genius Project, Valentine reached out to School of Science Dean Roy Wensley to set up internships for Saint Mary’s students. Three students participated last year, including social media intern Abreal Simmons ’17 and event volunteer Jonathan Dickson ’17.

Valentine hopes to continue connecting Hidden Genius with Saint Mary’s, from where he launched his career. “I loved Seminar,” he said. “Being able to listen, absorb information, and articulate my thoughts and arguments has catapulted me to where I am now.”