Trenton’s youth are strong, intelligent, and capable. As our community’s greatest asset, the investments we make in today’s young people will undoubtedly pay dividends far into the future. Despite the incredible potential, many of our city’s youth are tragically barred from accessing the resources needed to thrive and overcome. Thankfully, however, organizations and advocates are stepping up and offering children an alternative path of enrichment and education. Inspired by the talents and tenacity of the Capital City’s up-and-coming generation, Trenton’s own Nyene Henry Baker set forth to host a truly transformative event: the 50th Anniversary of the Hip Hop Breakbeat Hackathon.
This exciting afternoon they invited 20 of the community’s brightest young minds to step into the world of STEM. Nyene Baker was the keynote speaker of his event, where his topic of discussion was ”The Power of Vision”. The attendees ranged from 12 to 26 years old, with each participant having the opportunity to try their hand at coding and creating their beat. Regardless of experience level, participants could proudly say they were well on their way to becoming an engineering artist by the end of the day! While the event offered guests an accessible means of learning to code, it also provided something much bigger: an avenue for participants to reach their full potential.
When asked about this event, Nyene Baker shared a bit of his backstory and the inspiration behind the project. Growing up in Trenton, Baker found himself entangled in the temptations of his environment. After several encounters with law enforcement, Baker was ultimately arrested by the FBI at the Philadelphia International Airport for drug trafficking. When reflecting on this experience, Baker noted, “I was sentenced to 180 months in prison, 15 years, and the sentencing day was one of the best days of my life. I promised myself that I would work on my flaws and work on myself, becoming greater. While doing that, I had a vision to come home, impact my community worldwide, and try to save as many youth and adults as possible from not going down the path I went.”
In discussing the importance of STEM, Nyene brought up a vital fact: while Black individuals make up 12% of the workforce, they represent only 8% of the technology industry. Likewise, despite making up 17% of the workforce, Latinos only make up 8% of the technology industry. Offering underserved populations access to STEM careers and education is not just an equitable and just thing to do; it is a powerful tool that can be used to transform lives. Technology remains a thriving industry and offers emerging professionals a genuine opportunity for upward mobility.
Reflecting on this, Baker stated, “So my mission and dream is to change these statistics and create more employment opportunities in the tech industry for all minorities and people from all walks of life.” Continuing, he noted, “I just want to better opportunities for the underserved community, and that was one of the main reasons I had the hackathon: so that the kids who are tech savvy can take advantage of the opportunity to tap into their ingenuity and spark some more greatness into them.”
In our discussion, Baker noted that up until this year, he had never encountered the STEM field. Upon this realization, Nyene felt called to help bridge the gap in communities who may not otherwise have access to this field which is brimming with opportunity. Our community’s youth deserve nothing but the best, and options like these allow youth to engage with their potential and proceed confidently, knowing they can achieve anything they put their minds to.
We’ve all heard the term “It takes a village,” and this incredible hackathon was no exception. Nyene extends his appreciation to several amazing supporters behind him every step of this journey, including his partner, Kamal Bathla, the Managing Director of Maestro Technology, and the entire staff of Maestro. Another instrumental figure in bringing this event to life was Richard Achee of Google and Founder of Breakbeatcode. Achee played a mainly instrumental role in this event, coming in from New York to inspire participating youth, teach them coding through music, and help with technical issues.
In addition to professional support, the hackathon was also supported by several Nerds with Swag volunteers who helped bring the day’s festivities to life. This event serves as a testament to the devotion that so many feel towards uplifting the community’s youth, reaffirming to the young people that their village will continue to show up for them along every step of the journey.
Nyene’s passion for young people inspired him to start his non-profit, Visionary Philanthropy Group Inc. Baker is also the mind behind his brand, Nerds with Swag. When we hear the term nerd, we often picture a cliché. However, Baker wants to challenge that assumption and reaffirm to youth that being a nerd is cool. To help drive this message home, Nyene devised a brilliant acronym to encourage more nerds to emerge in the community and worldwide: Never Ending Relentlessness Determines Success. And with an unrelenting passion of his own, Nyene hopes to drive this message home to every member of our community.
Even though the Breakbeat Hackathon is now behind us, there is no doubt that the impact of this event will be felt for years to come. Suppose you’d like to keep up with all the incredible things Nyene and the Visionary Philanthropy Group are up to. You can follow them on Facebook (Visionary Philanthropy Group) and Instagram (@VisionaryPhilathropyGroup). If you or your organization wishes to help support this work, please reach out at email@example.com to see how you can participate in future initiatives. Our community’s youth lay the foundation for the Trenton of tomorrow, and thanks to the support of initiatives like these, we can take heart knowing that the future is looking bright.