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Detroit Apple Developer Academy celebrates first graduating class

June 30, 2022
The first class of graduates from the Apple Developer Academy pose for a portrait alongside MSU's President Stanley, Apple's Vice President Lisa Jackson and Gibert Family Foundation Executive Director Laura Grannemann in Detroit on June 30, 2022.
The first class of graduates from the Apple Developer Academy pose for a portrait alongside MSU's President Stanley, Apple's Vice President Lisa Jackson and Gibert Family Foundation Executive Director Laura Grannemann in Detroit on June 30, 2022. —
Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Last year, Michigan State University collaborated with Apple Inc. to introduce North America’s first Apple Developer Academy. On Thursday morning, the Academy celebrated its very first graduating class: a diverse group of individuals aged 18 to 64. 

Located in Detroit, the Academy was created as a part of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, or REJI, designed to help dismantle the barriers that communities of color face by bringing opportunities for equity and entrepreneurship. 

Apple Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives Vice President Lisa Jackson spoke at the ceremony. She said the graduating class has proved that technology can be a powerful force for social change.

“Everything we learn here, all the connections that we make will build out into the world,” Jackson said. “Creating opportunity, building community, inspiring innovation, wash, rinse, repeat, do it over and over again, together ... you built tools that empower people to make the world more equitable.”

Jackson expressed gratitude that Detroit was able to be home to the Academy. 

“This is a city with a vibrant legacy of Black and brown entrepreneurship and innovation,” Jackson said.  “You can feel the energy here.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said that, too often, those that go through Detroit schools do not receive the same jobs, mentorships or internships. So when Apple wanted to create an academy in Detroit, Duggan admits that he wondered what the catch was. 

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“Detroit-ers have not had these kinds of opportunities, no matter how talented you are,” Duggan said. “It’s just so exciting to have this in the city of Detroit.”

Despite fears that the opportunity might be too good to be true, the Academy will increase its class size to 200 students next year, nearly doubling this year's class. Duggan emphasized that this year's graduates “paved the way” for the Academy to create more opportunities. 

Apple Developer Academy graduate Paul Campbell will join Michigan State University as a freshman in the fall. For the last year, he attended both high school in the morning and the Academy in the afternoon.

President Samuel L. Stanley said he’s excited to have Campbell on campus.

"It was mentioned that he was a high school student, who essentially had gotten permission … to do this half-time,” Stanley said. “I was impressed by that kind of dedication. I didn't imagine at the time that it would end up being something he would decide to pursue further at Michigan State University … I think it’s outstanding.”

Stanley described the Academy as “extraordinarily powerful,” emphasizing that with 200 students next year, the impact of the program will be doubled.

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“I think it's gonna have a ripple effect,” Stanley said. “I think these students and graduates, as they go out, are going to tell others, encourage and teach others some of the things they’ve learned ... I think it's going to continue to be a source of pride for Michigan State.” 

During the ceremony, select groups of graduates presented the projects that they have been engineering for the last ten months. 

Six graduates, coined “Team Powerhouse,” presented their app, BiteSight. The software allows users with allergies or dietary restrictions to use their phone to scan the ingredient lists on food items for anything that might be harmful to them. 

Next, “The Crew” presented BeAware, an app that uses the photos in one's camera roll to suggest new experiences to the user. If someone had photos of waterfalls in their camera roll, the app’s algorithm would use this photo to suggest different hikes or nature sights. 

Graduate Raven Scott worked on design and product management for BeAware. She felt more naturally inclined to the business side of the process and trusted her teammates with other aspects like coding. She described this as “a labor of love.”

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"If I could leave my classmates and everyone in the room with a couple of pieces of advice it would be: remember your 'why,' even when you don't know when, where, or how," Scott said.

Scott left her fellow classmates with a challenge: to take part in the change that is happening in Detroit and use their new knowledge to be an individual that instructs, informs and inspires.

Applications are being accepted for the next Apple Developer Academy cohort. Find more information here.

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