Braxton Dockery’s reasons for participating in the Real Skills 2.0 college prep and leadership program for Greater Detroit go beyond the benefits which will take him and other students through various academic and professional training programs.
“My sisters were in the program, so it’s part of the family,” said the 17-year-old Cass Tech student.
Real Skills 2.0 is a free, 10-week program which began in 1999 and is hosted by the Coleman A. Young Foundation (CAYF). It is supported by The Skillman Foundation and Rock Ventures LLC, along with the help of a Community Development Block Grant. According to CAYF Executive Director Khary K. Turner, it is designed to help students transition into a college and real life environment.
“The goal of the program is to prepare the students to succeed in college and life,” said Turner on Saturday as the students took a course on computer coding hosted by Quicken Loans at their 1 Campus Martius address in downtown Detroit. “It offers training with rapport building, college and scholarship training, bullying issues, and coding. Over 10 weeks we hope to prepare them for life on an academic, professional and community level.”
Dockery, who aspires to be an architect and/or human resources manager, as well as other Real Skills students, spent Saturday morning touring the Quicken Loans offices before taking the computer software coding class as part of the program. As part of the coding course, students watched a short film featuring internet heavyweights such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg discussing their motivations for becoming involved in computer coding. Students then worked on coding exercises featuring the popular smart phone game application Angry Birds.
The course was taught by Verchema Flood of Sisters Code, which describes itself as a “global social enterprise with a mission to educate, empower, and entice women ages 25-85 to explore the world of coding and technology.” Flood told the class that as an IT specialist, she can work from home.
“I wake up in the morning and cross the hallway to my office with my hair up and in my pajamas,” she said.
She also informed the class that as a skilled IT specialist they would never need to worry about finding work.
“Some skilled IT specialists can name their own price,” she said.
The video presentation said that there are at least one million IT jobs available in the United States alone.
Real Skills 2.0 also specializes in getting successful members of industry and the academic field to work as hands-on mentors with the students. Steve Jenkins Jr., an IT field engineer for Beaumont Hospital, has worked as a mentor in the program for three years now and said he likes the college prep aspects.
“It’s the motivational thing. There is more to college than just the books, it’s the lifestyle,” he said.
Some Real Skills 2.0 students have high aspirations at a very young age. Raginald Aleobua, 11, aspires to be a mechanical engineer and wants to use that skill to work in the auto industry and design cars.
“I know most mechanical engineers know about cars, and that’s gonna help me,” said Raginald. “Codes will help me put cars together.”
14-year-old Caleb Jones wants to go into the advertising industry and use his coding skills to build websites and make commercials via computer, but he emphasized the life skills and leadership mentoring as a plus.
“I want to be a better leader and help my peers with the program,” Jones said Saturday while discussing his involvement in the program.
Next weekend the Real Skills students will head to Western Michigan University for 5 hours of career and college awareness experiences, focusing on adjusting to college life and life lesson sessions dealing with serious life subjects like sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, and relationships. The day will also include presentations on excelling in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, courses and careers. The visit will also feature a life discussion panel with a student panel that will talk about time management and study skills as well as what life on a college campus is like.
The 10th and final week of Real Skills will feature another campus trip, this time to the University of Michigan at Dearborn, where students will participate in a program entitled “Can You Hang,” which helps them with team-building and leadership development, concentrating on communication, accountability, and trust with team and group members.
Previous Real Skills weekend courses participants were exposed to cyber bullying classes addressing how to spot bullying, how to deal with bullying if you have been a victim, plus creative writing workshops, rapport building, and health and nutrition workshops. An essay writing and college application course were also part of the program.