Jomo Greenidge, founder of the Game It Up Initiative, has been an avid gamer since the age of 7. His diverse background includes education, theology, community development, event management, and media design. For over 25 years, Jomo D. M. Greenidge has been utilizing those skills on the front line of non-profit youth & young adult engagement programs in a variety of roles. From direct instruction, curriculum development, to fundraising and case management…he’s seen it all.
He’s also seen almost every organization that he’s ever worked with struggle with the balance of meeting needs while maintaining capacity. His concern has grown over the years seeing valuable projects cut due to lack of funding… generally at the loss of, or lack of grant money.
There had to be a better way.
In the process of working on solving this problem, there were aspects of his own personal story that kept coming up in the back of his brain. Seemingly unrelated, these themes began to weave together a compelling argument that he could not ignore.
FACT: MANY TEENS REALLY LOVE LEARNING, BUT STRUGGLE IN SCHOOL.
Jomo had to take sixth grade twice, was often in the office of the counselor (read: kicked out of class), and finished his senior year at Benson Polytechnic High School with a less than 2.0 GPA, and without a high school diploma. He had power struggles with school administrators, wouldn’t do his homework, and in many ways wasted the time he spent in school. The odd thing is during the same time frame he had all of his math credits by the end of his freshman year, taught himself calculus, got elected class president, spent Saturdays and summers teaching discrete mathematics with Saturday Academy, scored high enough on the SAT to qualify for Mensa, was a semi-finalist for Who’s Who in Education 1989 and even got a job at Providence Medical Center doing dBase development for the hematology lab.
FACT: THE TECH COMMUNITY HAS A HIGH CONCENTRATION OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE EDUCATED THEMSELVES, ALONGSIDE THOSE WITH MORE TRADITIONAL EDUCATION PATHS.
Jomo found that while he had some unnecessary hurdles to overcome due to his lack of good grades, his commitment to self-educate, his creative thinking, his foundation in math reasoning, and his leadership skills have all been much more valuable…especially within the tech community. In fact, the more he has developed relationships with others in this business, he has found many others whose experience reflects his own. Time after time, people have shared how their professional development has weaved both inside and outside “school.”
FACT: VIDEO GAMES ARE A COMMON INTEREST OF BOTH TEENS AND MEMBERS OF OUR TECH COMMUNITY.
While directing an after-school computer-based technology lab, Jomo had a lot of success developing educational projects that commanded the attention of the local youth. So much so, kids began skipping school to meet him at the lab. While this created other challenges, there was no denying that he was on to something. These projects were mostly based on video game development roles: engineers, artists, writers, musicians, technicians, and producers. This became an easy talking point when recruiting mentors for this program. Most would light up when hearing about the type of projects they could work on with youth. When Jomo would get the two groups together it took some time for trust to build and for relationships to develop. One good way to keep the youth engaged during this process was playing video games together.
CONCLUSION: ADULT GAMERS CAN, IF THEY SO CHOOSE, PLAY A TREMENDOUS ROLE IN INSPIRING YOUTH ABOUT EDUCATION.
These amalgamated facts led Jomo to this simple conclusion: A multi-generational gaming community, with a focus on education, should be able to bring a social return on investment (SROI) in an area that is desperately needed.
- Youth will get much needed interactions with adult mentors that share common interests.
- Local businesses have a point of community engagement that is desirable to their employees.
- The international video game industry will be able to share their products with a extremely receptive audience, while providing a valuable community service.
DECISION: USE VIDEO-GAME-THEMED EVENTS & COMPETITIONS TO:
- Mobilize our gaming community
- Challenge young people to become lifelong learners and…
- Expose them to resources that will spur educational development.
You want to know about Jomo Greenidge? He is a man on a mission: Entrepreneur. Educator. Youth Advocate. Minister. Deejay. Gamer. Geek. Regardless of the hat he is wearing at the time, Jomo Greenidge is a technologist who loves Jesus Christ, kids, gadgets, helping people, and otherwise working on really cool projects. He lives in Northeast Portland with his wife and two sons. When not blogging, designing, coding, prototyping, or spending time with his family and friends, you can catch him on Xbox Live attempting to improve his pathetic gamerscore.