Success Story: $500k Goes to CCMA Mini-Grant Awardee

April 27, 2021

A CCMA student mini-grant program awardee from the University of the District of Columbia was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the Gula Tech Foundation. Last year a group of students from UDC applied to the CCMA mini-grant program as part of their senior capstone project and was awarded the $250 mini-grant to help carry out their project: a summer camp for middle school students to teach computer coding. This project was so successful that Darold Kelly Jr., a leader in the student group, started his own nonprofit organization called the Black Cybersecurity Association (BCA) to continue this work. In January 2021, the BCA entered a Gula Technology Foundation competition for Empowering African Americans and won the $500,000 first prize.

Reflecting on the trajectory of the BCA over the past couple of years, DJ said, “This $500K grant would not have been possible without CCMA’s $250.00 mini-grant.”

The road to receiving half a million dollars was not straight forward. The professor of the senior capstone course offered students extra credit for applying for a CCMA mini-grant application as part of their assignment. One group, Mentors United, applied for the grant solely to get the extra marks in the class. They proposed to host a STEMentors program at Howard University Middle School in Washington, D.C. Middle school students would participate in a learning-to-code program that would allow students to learn about operating systems, Linux, programming, and robotics all at the same time. Mentors United would serve as guides to the ten students by assisting them directly with coding and understanding how to use the tools provided, as well as being mentors on a more personal level since they had also grown up in the same urban communities as the mostly Black and Hispanic youth program participants.

As this project was closely aligned with CCMA’s mission, vision, and values, and would further equity and accessibility in their community, the student group won the CCMA mini-grant. Armed with the $250 of grant money, the group who really just wanted extra credit, now had to carry out their project.

Darold Kelly, Jr, Founder and President of the Black Cybersecurity Association

The initial Kids Can Code camp was planned for the spring of 2020 just as the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. The group quickly pivoted and created an online learning environment that proved to be more popular than they expected. With the clear interest shown in cybersecurity and coding, Darold Kelly Jr., who also goes by DJ, decided the next logical step forward was to create a nonprofit organization to support this skillset and career path in his community. DJ’s desire to support youth interested in cybersecurity came from a place of pain and frustration from his own journey where he experienced a distinct lack of support or mentorship to help him find a path in this field.  DJ felt like “we needed more mentorship and guidance, especially in cybersecurity.”

Established in the summer of 2020, the Black Cybersecurity Association (BCA) is an inclusive nonprofit organization focused on community and career mentorship for underrepresented minorities in the cybersecurity industry.

Winning student with the Kids Can Code program

Once established, people kept mentioning the Gula Tech Foundation to the young nonprofit leaders. DJ and his nonprofit saw a perfect opportunity in the Empowering African Americans grant in January 2021. They applied and were awarded first place – a prize of $500,000. This money will help make BCA official, DJ says, and allow them to do everything they do, but do more and do it better. They can now expand scholarship opportunities, grow existing programs, provide better services like resume building and certification training, improve classes, and pay their staff who have been working for free since the founding of the BCA because they believe in its mission and work.

CCMA awards student groups with mini-grants to assist with community events, volunteer recruitment, student engagement, student conferences, or other activity promoting student engagement within the community. For more information on the student mini-grant, see our website.