SMU, Tribe Network launch BIPOC youth tech fellowship
Posted on June 17, 2021 | By Simon R. Smith | 0 Comments
Alfred Burgesson and Dr. Robert Summerby Murray
A new Nova Scotian program aimed at engaging youth who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in technology and sustainable entrepreneurship is set to begin next month.
Operated by Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in partnership with Halifax’s Tribe Network and Atlantic Canadian-based charity, Brilliant Labs, the Brilliant Creators Fellowship will offer training in computer science and technology, leadership and sustainable development to 15 Nova Scotian participants aged 15-18. In its inaugural year, the fellowship has been awarded to participants in Halifax, Dartmouth, Lower Sackville, Fall River and Membertou First Nation.
Tribe Network’s founder and CEO, Alfred Burgesson said he began having conversations with Brilliant Labs a few months ago about engaging BIPOC youth to learn and apply new skills in an entrepreneurial way to solve local problems. The two organizations later brought in SMU, he said, whose entrepreneurship centre will engage participants once they have an idea to help “bring it to life.”
“We want to have youth that are engaged and are part of making a difference in the world, truly,” Burgesson said. “And we want to make sure BIPOC youth are a part of that—that they’re not left out of these opportunities and have the capacity and the skills to do this work well.”
John Wong, Brilliant Labs’ director of community and fund development says the fellowship builds on the nonprofit’s mandate of bringing “maker-centered learning” into communities.
“The whole premise of Brilliant Creators … is to work in a very focused and intentional way with BIPOC youth to give them the kind of opportunities that would not necessarily be made available in their own groups or communities.”
Incoming Brilliant Creator fellow, Erika Peck, is particularly looking forward to the sustainable development project portion of the program. “I really like having projects to work on,” she said, adding that she’s typically drawn to biology and chemistry but she wants to “have a good knowledge of every aspect of science” and expand her skills in computer science and leadership during the fellowship.
Participants will be guided, Burgesson said, to model their projects according to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. “Essentially, we want to make sure that the youth are aware of what these goals are and then think about them in a local context,” he explained.
In addition to skill development and access to community leaders and industry mentors, Brilliant Creators participants who complete the year-long fellowship will be offered a $12,000 scholarship over four years to study computer science or business at SMU.
SMU president, Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray said in a news release announcing the fellowship that the university recognizes “the importance of championing diversity across all fields of research, work and study.” •
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