How RBSP Alumni Give Back

Paying It Forward -  Samuel Alemayehu

"The award to me of a $40,000 scholarship ten years ago, was by far the largest and most important financial gift anyone had ever made for me or my family. The Ron Brown Program gave me financial support and an invitation to join the RBS family that aimed to honor the legacy of Secretary Ron Brown by daring us to succeed beyond our wildest dreams. So ten years later after an Engineering Degree from Stanford and a series of successful startups, I am in a position to give back to the organization that has changed my life. I wanted to be the first Ron Brown Scholar to fund a full scholarship of $40,000. Having experienced and benefitted from the Ron Brown Program, the ultimate way to show my gratitude was to provide the same opportunity for future Ron Brown Scholars."

The Hidden Genius Project: Initiated by Ron Brown Scholars: Jason Young, Tracy T. Moore, II, Errol Saunders and Michael McDaniels

The Hidden Genius Project (HGP) seeks to equip underserved students with the skills they need to become productive participants in the global, 21st century workforce.  HGP operates under the premise that all students possess tremendous potential.  In order for them to realize their potential within a knowledge-based economy, students must develop 21st century skills.  These skills range from technological fluency to the abilities to effectively communicate and creatively solve problems in team-based environments.  HGP prepares students to fully participate in this new, 21st century economy by providing them with intensive training in critical life and career skills. HGP will provide Oakland black male youths with the knowledge, skills, mentors, and experiences to obtain and create technological jobs in this new, global 21st century economy.  The HGP pilot program will take place over 2 years (2012-2014). This initial program will focus on at-risk, 15 to 18-year-old black males.  These students will work with a multi-disciplinary team of primarily black young technology professionals and entrepreneurs to develop mobile applications for submission to the App Store.  During the development process, students will build skills in the areas of software development, software design, and technology entrepreneurship.  They will also hone their communication, collaboration, critical thinking and long-term planning skills. 

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Honduran 2-Unit Case Study; Initiated by Scholar Lynwood Walker

By year 2030, about 40% of the world’s population, 3 billion people, will need access to housing. This is the largest human rights issue of our time, as access to adequate housing is necessary to ensure optimal health, nutrition, and safety.  In Honduras, only 30% of homes are built of suitable materials, 70% on unregistered land, and only 32% of these units have basic water sanitization. Housing costs must be less than $10,000 to be affordable to 4 deciles of income distribution, but traditional construction processes do not profitably deliver housing at this value, resulting in the existing MFI/SLC organizations in Honduras that are devoted to affordable housing, reaching only 4% of their 120,000 qualifying clients each year. Our goal with this two-unit project is to demonstrate, through case study, how Prisna’s automated approach to construction may effectively fulfill this housing need quickly, affordably, and sustainably. Moreover, this project’s success will validate an agreement for 2,000 additional units over 5 years, where we will demonstrate that this program can be scaled significantly and replicated in several developing nations, to decrease housing scarcity and increase quality of life. With the first two units, we will serve two low-income families in Honduras who otherwise would not be able to afford a built structure.

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Back to School Project: Initiated by Scholars Charly Jeune and Geraldine Pierre

The purpose of this project is to provide disadvantaged Haitian youths with need based scholarships to attend school in the next school year. Only 50% of all kids in Haiti have ever attended school. The project will partner with the L’Ecole Communautaire de Port-Salut to provide full scholarships for all of its 200 students. The project will provide 200 scholarships to Haitian students who will attend L’Ecole Communautaire de Port-Salut. All 200 of those full scholarships will come from the Ron Brown Community Service Grant. The selected students would not otherwise be able to pay for school since Haiti has a 70% unemployment rate and 50% of kids never attend school because the government does not provide free public school for all kids. The students at ECP are poorer than the average student in Port-Salut. 

Scholar Highlights

Faith Jackson, RBS 2012, is a student of Economics and Arabic at Harvard University. Returning to Harvard this spring after a year off, she spent time in her hometown near D.C., working for a non-profit dedicated to recovering excess food from dining halls and donating it to shelters and kitchens, interning on Capitol Hill and then at the White House. Faith is passionate about advocacy, service and social justice, and is active in her home and college communities.  She is currently working to establish Read Between the Minds, a non-profit that seeks to use technology to combat insufficient guidance and educational underachievement by connecting high school students and graduates with e-mentors from a network of well-qualified college students and young adults. At Harvard, Faith serves as a member of the Harvard Mock Trial Association and the Institute of Politics. If not for the financial support of the Ron Brown Scholar Program and the moral support of her RBS family, Faith believes that many of her experiences would have been inconceivable.

Sean Nolan, RBS 1999, is a senior engineer at Pratt & Whitney, a self-described “world leader in design and manufacture of aircraft engines.” On the Middletown, Connecticut campus, he is assigned to the compressor section of product development for a next-generation, new- option jet engine planned for use on the Airbus A320 starting in 2015.  Sean mentors current undergraduate engineering students as they manage the rigors of academic life and the introduction to scientific research and product development. Sean studied at MIT, where he completed his undergraduate degree and then his PhD (2009) in aeronautics and astronautics. While at MIT, Sean performed research on turbo machinery at the Gas Turbine Lab.  This research led to the development of design methods that he is now using to improve the efficiency and operability of jet engines.  Furthermore, he was instrumental in fostering a collaborative relationship between the MIT Gas Turbine Lab and the Air Force Research Lab's turbine engine division.

Mohammed Toure, RBS 2012, was born in the forest region of Guinea, a region wedged in between Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia, where his parents sought refuge for about sixteen years from war-torn Liberia. He moved with his family to the United States in March of 2007. In his four years of high school at the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA., Mohammed made the most of every opportunity presented to him. This included securing a prestigious internship with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Molecular Ophthalmology where he assisted with gene therapy to find cures for hereditary retinal degenerations. He then went on to Harvard where he is earning his bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. At Harvard, Mohammed is involved in cancer and genomics research through the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. Outside of his studies, Mohammed is active in campus life. Currently, he is a member of the Harvard Undergraduate Council, and an executive board member with the Biomedical Engineering Society where he established a mentoring program between upperclassmen and students considering biomedical engineering as a major.

Jonathan Piper, RBS 1998, a graduate of Wake Forest University in 2002 with a major in Chemistry, focused his career and educational paths in computer science. Leaving behind a software company he founded, Jonathan returned in 2005 to his hometown, Cleveland, to join MIM Software, a then young medical imaging software firm. Since then, he has traveled the world, presented at numerous academic medical conferences, been author on several papers and inventor on one patent with several more pending. Jonathan is currently Vice President of Research and Development with MIM Software.

Jason Young, RBS 2000, was recently appointed to President Obama's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. In 2011, while working as a Kauffman Entrepreneurial Fellow, he founded MindBlown Labs, an education technology company that creates captivating, mobile, game-based solutions that empower young people through financial capability. MindBlown’s goal is to impact 20M lives by 2020. He and co-founder and fellow Ron Brown Scholar Ty Moore moved to Oakland to launch their new company and were immediately struck by the need to enable more blacks to enter the Bay Area’s signature industry: high technology. Along with several other black technology entrepreneurs, they founded the Hidden Genius Project, a multi-year program that trains underserved black male youth in software development and entrepreneurial thinking. Jason has served on the boards of the Harvard Club of San Francisco.