"It's fun," says 8th grader, Wilson Johnson. "I like mainly the coding, and learning different lifestyles."
Johnson is one of dozens of teens learning the ins and outs of computer technology alongside industry professionals.
It's all apart of the new pilot program called "ManCode Mentoring."
"ManCode mentoring started when a few employees at Microsoft kind of noticed, "hey, it's not a lot of us in this field, what can we do," says Quanda Arch, program manager for the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center in north Minneapolis. "We are also in this reimagination state and what COVID-19 taught us is that there is a digital divide."
Arch says one of the architects of the ManCode Mentoring program is from the Twin Cities, but due to COVID-19, the program evolved from in-person to an online conference providing free sessions for young Black males between the ages of 12 and 17.
"Because I'm active in my fraternity, we are already doing volunteer work at Phyllis Wheatley and as I was working with Quanda they mentioned ManCode," says James Johnson, III, who has a son in the program.
According to the International Game Developers Association, 81% of game developers worldwide identify as white, while just 2% of identify as Black.
The recent study also found that "more diversity in game content" was a topic that is most important to the growth and success of the industry.
"That's what the beautiful part is," says Arch. "You think you're just gaming but you can actually be creating, doing voiceovers and coding, and these are actual careers."
While the program is still evolving, Arch says they're hoping to continue expanding it this year. "The plan is to have more cohorts throughout this year, and of course we are going to do a female version," she says.
Sessions are held on Saturdays and run through March 6. Each participant will also receive an investment account incentive of $100.
If you would like to learn more about the program, follow the link.