Ne-Yo helps open tech world to young people of color

“World of Dance” host and Grammy-winning artist Ne-Yo thinks the tech world could do with a change — and he’s going to help make it happen.

In 2017, the singer-songwriter invested $2.3 million dollars in Holberton, a Silicon Valley software engineering school, and joined the Board of Trustees. From the beginning, Ne-Yo made it clear that he wanted to take an active role in recruiting students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The school is important to me because it allows access to this technology education, to be frankly honest, to people that it wasn’t accessible to before,” Ne-Yo told the Associated Press. “You know minorities, people of color, women, people that are not represented as fully in the tech space as they perhaps should be or could be.” 

Unlike other post-secondary schools, Holberton students are chosen based on a blind acceptance process. The application is free and the only requirement is a high school diploma or GED, according to the Holberton admissions site.

No upfront payment is required and students who graduate and make $40,000 a year or less do not have to pay tuition, while students with higher incomes share 17 percent of their earnings for three and a half years, or up to $85,000.

The school’s mission is to make software engineering more accessible to a broader range of demographics. 

“I just always want to be pushing part of whatever is pushing us forward as a society. And in that, this technology is changing the world for literally everybody on it. Every second, it’s changing for everybody. Everybody should have access to it,” Ne-Yo told Associated Press. 

“Like from just pre-Ne-Yo and post-Ne-Yo, the number of African American students at Holberton doubled,” co-founder Sylvain Kalache told AP. “So he really had a huge impact on the student demographic and he has been doing an amazing job.” 

The school is one of the most diverse institutions in tech with a student body that is 30 percent women and over 50 percent people of color. 

“I feel like education is the answer to all of the problems in the world today. Ignorance is the absolute enemy of any success, of any progress,” Ne-Yo explained. “It’s always going to be ignorance and laziness. And you know, the Holberton School allows to where you don’t have to be either.”

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