Nyene Baker, a native of Trenton, New Jersey, first entered the prison system after he was arrested at age 10, during the sixth grade; however, he was put on probation. By his senior year of high school, he was dealing drugs and engaging in other criminal activities.
Due to his actions at the time, his parents had to send him to Liberia; however, when he got back to the United States, he returned to his old criminal ways.
Baker was found guilty of drug conspiracy and given a 15-year prison term on December 20, 2010. He shared that at the moment of his sentencing, the idea to alter his life and the lives of others suddenly struck him.
“Sentencing day was one of the best days of my life because I was relieved,” Baker told AfroTech in an exclusive interview. “I was like, ‘You know what, I got 15 years to get my act together, to work on my flaws and become a greater man.’ And I was like ‘I’m really going to come out and help change a lot of lives and try to stop people from going down the path that I went.’”
He established his nonprofit organization, Visionary Philanthropy Group, after receiving an early release from prison. His goal is to help underserved communities and at-risk youth avoid the mistakes he made and “achieve their self-sufficiency and stability.”
Nyene’s nonprofit is working with Richard Achee’s Breakbeatcode, a free educational program that teaches middle- and high-school students how to code through beat creation and music production.
He said “I just wanna be able to be an inspiration to the underserved communities, especially, and the world that your past doesn’t define your future. I had a million doors closed on me. However, there’s a lot of great people that see my talent and my passion to change lives, and I really appreciate everyone that’s just giving me the opportunity and a second chance.”
In order to enroll youth in the training, Visionary Philanthropy Group forms partnerships with schools and organizations. The young entrepreneur is thrilled to be able to support the next generation’s exploration of STEM because he didn’t have the opportunity to study the subject during his own schooling as a teenager. His organization has also worked with Google, Microsoft, and The Father Centre among others.
In contrast to the traditional method of coding, Breakbeatcode grasps and sparks attention from the kids, he disclosed. “In underserved communities, them learning coding can possibly be a little challenging because it’s not something prevalent that a lot of them are used to.”
Baker added, “However, with learning coding through music, it gives them a better chance to understand the coding. And it really allows them the opportunity to really master the coding more easily.”
Baker revealed that in addition to managing his nonprofit, he works part-time at Amazon. He is, however, confident that his current employment situation will soon change to a full-time position with his nonprofit. Additionally, he is grateful for the people in his life who gave him another chance to realize his goals.
To further increase access to opportunities to engage in STEM for underrepresented communities, Baker hopes to collaborate with a number of tech companies to make further positive impact among the youth.