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Through a pioneering mentorship program developed by Verizon, 400 middle school boys in Greensboro are working with top, local innovators at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to develop high-level technology skills that will lead to a brighter future in the classroom and beyond.

The Minority Male Makers Program is a two-year program that gives African-American middle school students hands-on technology experience in a range of STEM disciplines: mobile app design, coding, computer programming, robotics, and 3D printing. Professors at N.C. A&T will instruct the students during intensive, all-day classes on campus.

“The Minority Male Makers program offers the 400 student participants from Greensboro a level of access to technology, mentors and A&T that they have never had,” said Dr. Ben Obinero Uwakweh, dean of A&T’s School of Technology.

“This summer, they have been working with team leaders and mentors who happen to be alumni of our School of Education and learning from professors from the School of Technology. It is our hope that the students’ experience with Minority Male Makers will pique their interests in not only technology but other STEM-related disciplines as well.”

The wireless carrier saw a troubling trend: African American males account for just five percent of college students. Additionally, African American men are more likely than any other ethnic group in the U.S. to not complete high school on time, become unemployed or incarcerated.

Verizon developed the Minority Male Makers program to help provide a solution by investing in the futures of African American men as early as middle school. The program seeks to inspire students to explore the types of high-demand STEM fields that will enable them to make technology concepts a reality.

The intensive two-year program is using technology to foster skills and attitudes in these boys – including curiosity, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and confidence – that will help them throughout their lives.

The summer portion of the program will last four weeks with all-day workshops; during the 2015-2016 school year students will participate in check-in sessions for ongoing mentoring and academic support.

“Through the Minority Male Makers program, Verizon wants to see a new generation gain a passion for science and technology related fields, and as a leading technology company, we are in a unique position to demonstrate to students the types of impacts technology can have on the world around us,” said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless President for the Carolinas and Tennessee.

When Verizon set out to develop the Minority Male Makers program, A&T was one of four historically black colleges and universities across the country selected by the company to help develop and carry out the program. The other colleges include Jackson State University in Mississippi, Morgan State University in Maryland and Kentucky State University in Frankfort.

“The City of Greensboro is glad to have an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the program. Local educators at N.C. A&T have worked closely with Verizon to develop curriculum that will give Greensboro middle school minority boys the promise of a brighter future,” said Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. “This program demonstrates how technology and entrepreneurship education can help young African-American men achieve success in school and in the jobs of tomorrow."