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2016 Tribeca Film Festival - Portrait Studio - Day 8

Verizon is creating opportunities for male minorities through their Innovative Learning program. In their latest initiative, the company is providing summer tech classes and year-round mentorship for young Black men in grades six through nine. The aim is “to inspire them to pursue STEM careers” and challenge minority stereotypes.

From Verizon:

“The young men learn entrepreneurship, coding, app development, 3D design and robotics in summer classes on campus at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic serving institutions (HSIs) and continue working with mentors during the school year. Verizon Innovative Learning challenges stereotypes and demonstrates the great things young men of color can do for the world when they have access to technology and education. We are helping them deliver on the promises they make to themselves. #youdontknowme”

Supporting the initiative is Ride Along 2 producer Will Packer, who believes “a core competency in technology” is essential to success in today’s world. We briefly chatted with Packer at the 2016 ESSENCE Festival this weekend to talk about his involvement and why he’s excited to be a part.


TUD: You’re doing some exciting things with Verizon. Tell us more about that.

WILL PACKER: This is actually not the first year that I’ve worked with Verizon. I’m very pleased to be a part of the Verizon activation here at ESSENCE for multiple years because they’re innovators. Obviously they’re one of the biggest technology companies in the world; with that comes not only opportunity, but a responsibility, and I enjoy the fact that Verizon has accepted that responsibility and they reach out to minority and underserved communities. They have a program right now that they’ve just been talking to me about that I’m very excited [about]. It’s the Verizon Innovative Learning program, and it is reaching out to Black males specifically. There are a lot of programs out there for women, for people of color in general, but when you think about Black males specifically, which, obviously, you know, I grew up as one, I know that there is a stigma attached to overachieving technology areas — but that, in 2016, is the only path to success — not one of the paths, not an important path — the only path to success. You have to have a core competency in technology in order to be successful in today’s world, so that’s what excites me about being a part of a program with a company that recognizes value in that demographic.

Absolutely. And you’ve been working with Verizon for how long now?

I’ve done Verizon for five years.

Awesome. And it’s definitely something that you want to continue in the future? 

Oh, yeah! Absolutely, because they make it part of their corporate mission to reach a very similar audience that want to reach through my content and encourage them the same way that I want to encourage aspiring producers, writers, filmmakers, actors, or even people that want to do things outside of entertainment. Technology is such a big part of what I do, not just from a technical standpoint in terms of the way that I shoot my films or television, but also the way that I use digital media and social media to promote my films, so I’m very tied in to the technology and digital space, and the other side of that, as I said earlier, is the responsibility to make sure that I’m reaching out to people that don’t have the same level of access to encourage them to get involved in those areas. There’s a lot of opportunity; there just hasn’t been a lot of African-Americans or people of color in general that have been able to take advantage of the opportunities for careers in those spaces.


Will Packer Is Creating Opportunities For Young Black Men With Verizon’s Innovative Learning Program  was originally published on