Over the past few months, we've been covering the efforts of Miami-Dade library supporters to keep libraries fully funded. Advocates say libraries are more than just books -- they're major learning centers. One popular library program is YouMedia Miami where teenagers learn about technologies like coding, graphic design and music production.
Favour Nkwocha is a 17-year-old student at Miami Dade College who also takes science classes at the University of Miami through the Bridge to the Baccalaureate program. We recently met up with him at the North Dade Regional Library in Miami Gardens, where the YouMedia program is housed, to talk about how this program is helping him with his studies.
The following is a lightly edited version of our conversation:
Before you started with the YouMedia program, were you doing anything like this in school?
I was going to Carol City Senior High School, and well, I was just an average kid who came here a few years before. I came from Africa, and I'm a Nigerian. I speak the language Igbo. I just wanted to fit in because I had the American Dream in my head. My dad wanted me to go to Harvard, and he wanted me to be very successful so he brought me down here.
Were you interested in coding before you discovered YouMedia? Was it something you always wanted to do but didn't have the opportunity, or did YouMedia introduce you to that world?
I did not know what coding was before YouMedia. I had no idea. I had no interest. Before, I was a curious person, yes, but I had no interest in technology. Technology was that alien, esoteric background noise over there. After a while I got into YouMedia and just soaked it in. Right now I'm still learning technology because it keeps evolving.
Can you explain how learning about coding and photography helps you in your science studies?
In terms of neuroscience, we do brain imaging and PET [scans] and the MRI, so you can't be a scientist without knowing technology.
Has being a part of YouMedia changed the way you think about your future?
I'm a different person than I was before YouMedia. I just get into the space, and I have this sudden surge to learn and take in all the knowledge. After I leave the effects still last. I just want to come back and still learn and then go out and come back and still learn. It's like a space where the information is coming towards you. All you have to do it just grab it, and it's there.
How does YouMedia help your peers when it comes to education?
This is Miami Gardens, and they need to be involved more than ever 'cause our teens are involved in gang violence, shooting, homicide, and this program is that bridge that turns all the bad perspective about Miami Gardens and Florida into something beautiful, something good where you have people with amazing skill sets. You see great people coming out of Miami Gardens.
When Favour completes the Bridge to the Baccalaureate program, he will be granted admission to the University of Miami with a strong possibility that he will receive a full scholarship, but he says he has his eye on attending the University of Cambridge.