LANCASTER, Calif. — Youth in the Antelope Valley are getting introduced to careers in artificial intelligence.
Project Joy's Youth Artificial Intelligence Program is a six-week project to get youth interested in different industries located in the area. The project is based in Lancaster.
Jaleel Gray, 18, graduated in the spring from Antelope Valley High School. He attends community college but signed up for the paid AI program because he wanted to get paid to learn something new.
"AI is being used a lot more in the world. You see AI in phones and everything so I feel it's very important to learn about AI," Gray said.
Project Joy's founder Kim Watson and her team launched the 12-month pilot program in January at a community center. The LA County Department of Mental Health, California Community Foundation and other donors fund the program.
Facebook donated $1 million to the California Community Foundation as part of an overall commitment to invest $100 million in the Black community this year.
Watson said the goal is to grow talent for the tech companies in the Antelope Valley.
"We have tech all around us from Lockheed to Boeing to Northrup, Edwards Air Force base. However, a lot of our youth, especially Black youth and youth of color, don't feel connected to those opportunities," Watson said. "So we're intentional about giving our youth the skillsets, the connections, the confidence to enter the field that's right here in our backyard."
Students hear from guest speakers with companies like Lockheed Martin.
"We are proud that our employees have connected with Project Joy to encourage and shine the light on the incredible talents in our underrepresented communities…Some of those employees were mentored by a Lockheed Martin engineer in their own classrooms….Representation is key," the Palmdale-based company said in a statement.
Project Joy also has a media production program and helps youth with job skills like creating resumes and cover letters.
"My resume was terrible. I didn't know much about how to make a cover letter. The all-around skills they teach you about interviewing resume building, it's amazing," Gray said.
He said he is considering becoming a research analyst at a tech company after playing college football.
Project Joy is working to make the pilot program permanent by having it be available at all local high schools.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 with information regarding Facebook’s donation to the California Community Foundation.