This summer, the City of Newark launched its groundbreaking Unity and Virtual Reality Program, sending 51 students into the metaverse to learn how to code, develop software, and design their own virtual worlds.
As part of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) students spent 6 weeks at the Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology, using Occulus headsets to access expert teachers, complete real-time assessments, and collaborate with each other in a virtual classroom.
1Huddle Director of Social Impact Jahmila Williams and Founder and CEO Sam Caucci joined the students on their last day of class.
What follows is a discussion, edited for length and clarity, about 1Huddle’s experience in the metaverse with the graduates of Newark’s first-ever VR development course.
What was SYEP’s virtual classroom like?
Sam Caucci: I don’t know what you were doing with your summers, but I wasn’t going to school. Pretty cool to see 51 young people all in a classroom trying to learn a new skill.
Jahmila Williams: There was over $200,000 of cutting-edge tech in that room, and over 50 kids, mostly black and brown, who wouldn’t have had access to it otherwise.
To see all that technology, tech that isn’t thought of as being for them, and then to sit in that room, watch them master it, and watch all that change? Inspiring, that’s the word I keep coming back to.
What does it say about tech’s ability to empower people?
JW: Tech changes people, and access to it changes everything. It changes what you can do, and who is seen as being able to do those things.
By giving those kids that tech, Newark didn’t just give them the skills, but the tools to keep creating… Tools that they can keep, plus a lifetime subscription to the software. Now, no matter where they go, or where they find themselves, they’ll always have the ability to make what they want of the world.
1Huddle is a powerful tool for our social impact partners and for businesses looking to invest in diversity. What makes it unique?
JW: Like with the VR headsets, tools give people choices– everyone deserves to be able to make their own world– and 1Huddle is a truly unique tool when it comes to the important equity and inclusion work we do.
Where else can you play games against your CEO, against anyone in your organization? It’s a truly level playing field. And it has the ability to really change how the workforce sees itself, and who sees themselves as part of the team.
It’s the great equalizer.
What are you optimistic about when you think about the next generation of our workforce?
SC: I remember one kid asking me about how many errors I made when starting 1Huddle. I thought he was asking me a question about how many mistakes I’d made, and of course I’m thinking about all the things I’ve read about this generation being raised on participation prizes; You know, snowflakes who’re afraid to compete….
But then I realized what he was asking was a programming question… That when a developer makes an error, it’s a problem or a fault in the way the code is written– a bug that can interfere with the way the software runs.
And I realized these kids weren’t brittle. They were tough and ready to take risks. And this program gave them a whole new field to try and keep trying in, to fail and try again, to create without limit.
We have to create more opportunities like that.
So that’s what I’m excited about. That’s the goal that will be on my mind when Newark’s Tech Task Force kicks off next week, and I begin my first term as its chair.
At 1Huddle, we believe that companies, invested in their communities, working in partnership with educators and public workforce divisions, are uniquely positioned not just to do good, but to tap into the vast talent that’s out there.
And there is so much talent out. Those young SYEP graduates are proof.
It was a privilege to see the virtual worlds they created. We can’t wait to see what they build next.
1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.
With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool.
Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit 1huddle.co.