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Black Enterprise TV – Slice of Life – Profile Screening

It was an amazing opportunity and after 2+ hours or interviews (me, Mr. Marco – my co-instructor, parents, Uplift’s Board Chair – Crystal Swann, and students), my story has been officially recorded on film for public consumption for the first time ever. It was an awesome experience!

6 Months Down – 6 More to Go!

I must begin this blog entry by saying that Youth APPLab is so much more than I initially thought it would be.  We have been in class for 6 months now and I can tell the students have learned a great deal – and so have I.  I am truly proud of how far we’ve come and am exciting about the next 6 months.  Our story will certainly be an interesting one when it’s all said and done.   Done?  Did I say that?  This story won’t be done for quite some time, as we are currently planning for year two.

Black Enterprise TV – Slice of Life Recording

But for now, I am extremely please and honored that Black Enterprise TV  (BE TV) has expressed an interest in sharing all that we have accomplished so far.  As a follow-up to my being in the Feb. 2011 issue of Black Enterprise Magazine (p. 46), Ken Meeks, the Producer of BE TV was intrigued enough to want to know more.  He called a few weeks ago asking if he could come to DC and profile me for the ‘Slice of Life‘ show, a show about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  I welcomed it, of course!  🙂

Interviews All Around!

So, after days of planning and logistics, Ken Meeks and his crew finally arrived yesterday.  He wanted to tell my story as best he could with perspectives from students and parents impacted by the classes I teach, an explanation of why I do what I do, and my vision for it all.  It was an amazing opportunity and after 2+ hours or interviews (me, Mr. Marco – my co-instructor, parents, CS Faculty, Uplift’s Board Chair – Crystal Swann, and students), my story has been officially recorded on film for public consumption for the first time ever.  It was an awesome experience!

First, the shot creation.  Ken and crew began the day searching for the right place to record.  They found the hallway and placed robots on a table behind me (to represent my robotics courses).  Once found, the construction of the essence of the shot began.  Lights, shadows, angles, etc. were all arranged and modified for the best impact.  I must have sat in my seat as a prop in the shot for 30 min.  I was extremely interested in every step as I watched it unfold and was glad Imani (our photographer and videographer) was on hand to catch the behind-the-scene shots (coming soon).

Then the interview began.  Ken and I began to talk about how I got to be in that seat and I must admit, after about 10 min, I forgot all about the lights and the camera and although a bit nervous, began telling my story.  Some of you may know it.  But, believe it or not, I began with explaining that I knew I’d be working with/teaching youth in after-school programs since I was 12.  I didn’t really realize that it would be with technology until much later in life, however.  As I began to disclose how I had worked with computers in corporate America (Bell communications Research – Bellcore) every summer since the age of 16 and then again through college, I could see Ken become more and more intrigued.  He made it very easy to just spill my gutts!  🙂

The Back Story

Needless to say, I went on to share my experience (2+ years) as an IT consultant on Wall St. (just before 911), my time as a computer teacher at the 1st charter school in Newark, NJ (North Star Academy Charter School), where interestingly enough, I was Imani’s teacher when she was in the 5th grade, as well as my time working with and starting my own nonprofit organization.

Basically, I am personally interested in all the things I teach – so why not teach them as I learn them.  🙂  He asked several other interesting questions, but I’ll save their disclosure for the actual episode, which will air some time in May 2011.

Mr. Marco was also interviewed, along with a faculty member from the CS Dept, several parents, students, and Crystal, our Board Chair.

Then, we had our normal class (but not in our normal classroom).  Students were ready – to shine and to help me shine – and that they did.  Wait until you see the episode!


We ended the day with demos by Hamza, Muhammad, and Yusra of an app they created to control a Lego Mindstorm Robot, a challenge I put forth to students weeks before, as we (Uplift) are preparing to combine app development and robotics.  *I’ve been teaching robotics for two years now; it just makes sense!  The demo was great.  It was outside and attracted alot of attention from others at Howard.  I hope Hamza, Muhammad, and Yusra weren’t too nervous.  🙂

I remember at one point looking over and seeing the robot’s tracks popping off.  Too funny.  But, the beauty of editing is that that will not be seen, hopefully!  lol

Needless to say, it was an awesome day.  The students were awesome and really shown how brilliant and special they are.  They talked about several app ideas/projects in progress as we discussed some of the work and research happening in class.

Our Parents

Our parents were amazing as well. At least 7 were present and 5 were fathers! Just awesome! They even stayed long after the crew left to share with me directly how appreciative they are of the program. Some are now even interested in learning how to make apps themselves. Did I mention I will soon offer an adults class? 🙂

A Huge Thanks to Dr. Burge & Dr. Washington

The day was filled with excitement and new opportunities. I must give a huge shout-out and thank you to Dr. Burge and Dr. Washington of Howard University’s CS department. Not only have they hosted use for the past 6 months, but they helped make this event happen within days. They are truly awesome to work with…and I’m sure they are proud to work with a two-time Alumna of the department (yup, I have my BS and Masters in Computer Systems Engineering and Computer Science from Howard). That makes doing this work at Howard all the more special! 🙂

I will keep you posted of when the episode will air.

I can’t wait to see it myself!


By Leshell - Head Instructor

Leshell Hatley is the Founder of Uplift, Inc., the nonprofit that submitted Youth APPLab for the DML Competition.

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