By Dennis J. Freeman
COMPTON — As a foster kid growing up in Compton, Google software engineer Anthony D. Mays felt awkward in social settings, sometimes not believing that he could be an achiever.
Today, after overcoming personal challenges, Mays is encouraging young people that they can be all that they believe they can be.
Mays represented Google at the Compton Unified School District second annual STEAMFest, and found more than a handful of students seeking his advice. A crowd estimated at 8,000 people filled the Dollarhide Community Center for a few hours as they took in the latest technology from the likes of Apple, Boeing, Cemex, Carrot Group, Hacker Fund, Google, Charles Drew University, and other vendors.
Mays said he was more than happy to share what he has learned with students.
“I’m telling the kids that they have an opportunity unlike any other,” Mays said. “They can learn coding, they can learn engineering. They can learn science, medicine and math and apply their art skills. They can do all that stuff.
“They have the tools. They just have to use them and be willing to work hard. If I can spark inspiration in that regard, then I would love to,” he added.
There was a time that Mays didn’t feel he could be successful in anything. It wasn’t until his foster parents went out and bought him a computer that he figured out he could make something of himself.
Mays, who brought that computer to the STEAMFest event, learned to code off that technological instrument. He would later hone his coding skills from mentors that took him under their wings in middle and high school.
That proved to be the foundation Mays needed to jump headfirst into the technology field. That discovery certainly boosted his self-confidence.
“I didn’t feel like I was the smartest growing up,” Mays said. “I didn’t feel like I was the most capable. I struggled. I felt like I was an imposter every time when I went to college and all this other kind of things.
“I know that I may run into kids that are foster kids or going through the process of losing their family or during abuse or whatever that is. I’ve been through those things. So I want to be able to share with the students, ‘Hey, I’ve been there and done this. You can do the same thing. You can do it even better than me. You can go out and start your own business.’”
Part of the showcase at STEAMfest was featuring the art, robotics, science and the technology innovation of Compton students that highlighted photography, artwork and astute craftsmanship.
“It’s an opportunity to showcase what’s going on in Compton Unified School District and to show that parents and the students that the turnaround is real,” Superintendent Darin Brawley said. “It’s really an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this is the new Compton. These are the things that are happening. Your kids can be exposed to robotics, coding, arts, performing arts, you name it. The sky is the limit in Compton.”