On Education, Access, and Making

Two students at work bench

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of education as a means to building intelligence and character, often alluding to the importance of using your privilege to do good. King once said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” The push for better education, and equal access to it, was a critical component of the Civil Rights movement and King’s vision for a better society. Today, educational environments, including the relatively new phenomenon of maker spaces, are increasingly becoming high tech hubs for younger generations to learn the skills of the future. So how do we ensure accessibility for all? Trent Jones, USC Iovine and Young Academy lecturer and maker-in-residence, sat down with us to talk about education, the importance of community partnerships, and giving back through his craft.

Could you talk about the importance and influence of Black creative communities and their contributions in educating our youth?
In education, a student’s experience can be impacted, for better or worse, by their environment. In my work, I have seen how influential extracurricular activities and programs can be in educating students and creating possibilities for subject exploration. In schools, there are non-profit organizations such as Black Girls Code that facilitate hands-on learning environments and spaces for young girls to explore and develop their personal identities and hard skills, simultaneously. The prioritization of learning oneself and developing new skills through mentorship and real-world applications, especially, for young Black female communities is extremely important. I’ve been inspired by growing efforts to see young people of color represented throughout these industries and I hope to one day contribute to this movement by hosting a program that explores various industry roles and responsibilities and brings in diverse representatives to speak with young students of color about their experiences and potential paths.

Could you name a creator or entrepreneur who’s inspired your work?
When I think of a creator that has inspired me, MKBHD comes to mind. Marques Brownlee, known as MKBHD on YouTube, is a content creator recognized for his remarkably high-quality technology reviews and videos. Marques is notably one of the highest praised reviewers on YouTube and in the tech community, largely due to his resolute dedication to quality and honesty, which has deeply inspired me and my work. His influence reaffirms that having a passion for one’s craft means remaining diligent and committed to improving. I would hope given enough time and experience I would one day serve as a similar beacon to young students in education.

Why is it important to have creative spaces? What are some ways to provide better access to these types of environments?

As a curious young person who always enjoyed, and needed to be, hands-on, I struggled with accessing appropriate tools and spaces. With limited resources, I experienced constraints of what I could learn, explore, and create. In place of “maker spaces,” which are more commonly found today, I used tabletops in my home, my garage, and equipment that was in reach and affordable to materialize ideas. Makerspaces are intended to enable creatives and the curious to explore and learn about new mediums for creation and digital literacies. These spaces are not always available to younger students, however, over the past few years, I have learned of, and participated in, various impactful collaborations between low-income K-12 schools and universities. Having been on both sides, as a high school student who matriculated through multiple outreach programs, and as a college student who co-led outreach programs, I can speak personally to the great influence these partnerships have in encouraging and inspiring youth. Creating opportunities and leveraging universities’ intellectual resources, like maker spaces and tools, for young people to learn, gain exposure, and explore different disciplines can serve as a catalyst for achieving true diversity and equity across industries.

Thank you, Trent

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