Group photo of Blue Heart Foundation students at the college signing day event to celebrate their accomplishments. Photo Courtesy of Tracy Morris.

Group photo of Blue Heart Foundation students at the college signing day event to celebrate their accomplishments. Photo Courtesy of Tracy Morris.

Ke’Aun Dent is working towards his pilot’s license, while also exploring acting and pursuing a small business called Ke’s Kitchen, where he sells homemade cakes made from his family’s recipes.

Dent is finishing up his senior year at San Diego High School, online, and in the fall, he is headed to Morehouse College to pursue a degree in international business. From his budding business to his college prospects, he said his preparedness is in no small part thanks to The Blue Heart Foundation.

“I just want to do business and I want to ultimately like get in a position of power where I can create jobs and job opportunities for people who look like me,” Dent said.

He explained that he always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and study business in college, but it was his involvement with the The Blue Heart Foundation, where he is the Student President, that has given him the tools to make it happen.

Tracy Morris founded The Blue Heart Foundation in 2013 alongside his wife, April Ray, to provide underserved youth various experiences and encourage them to understand that they are greater than their current circumstances.

Morris, who grew up in South East San Diego, started the foundation with the intention of giving young men in his community a swiss-army knife of life skills to succeed in the future. Students can join the program in 7th grade and benefit from the program through high school.

“Everything that I do and God puts in my head, I mean, I’ve always looked at doing the best with what I’ve had, and then go further with it,” Morris said.

Tools for Success Through STEAM

Jasmine Sadler, founder of The STEAM Collaborative, worked with Dent during a STEM pitch competition in 2019 through the Blue Heart Foundation. Sadler prepared the teams for a friendly competition that challenged them to conceptualize and pitch an app that addressed an unmet need in their community.

Just a few weeks back, she ran into Dent at a farmer’s market where he was selling his carrot cake and afterwards, she encouraged him to create a pitch deck for his cake company, a practice she introduced to the Blue Heart boys for the competition.

“Now, it is very normal for him to have a business and for me to tell him you know, you should create a pitch deck on that and he’s like, okay, and he knows what that means,” Sadler said. “It normalizes entrepreneurship for these boys.”

One of the goals of the competition, Sadler explained, was to show these high school age boys that they don’t have to wait to become an entrepreneur.

Sadler, who started her small business in 2014, has impacted roughly 8,000 students through the STEAM Collab. While she was growing up in Detroit, Mich. Sadler said she learned a lot from informal education spaces and now she aims her services at collaborations with museums and after-school programs.

What started with Sadler tutoring students in math outside of her full-time engineering job, turned into a business venture that has received local recognition and a spot in the business accelerator Program Connect All at the Jacobs Center.

Using her degree in Aerospace Engineering, her MBA and her skills as a dancer, Sadler’s work is centered on elevating equity in education through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) curriculum which encourage students to creatively solve problems.

“That’s all we’re trying to do in everything that we do; can we get them to see two, three, four different answers to a solution,” Morris said. “So, the STEM piece is critical.”

Blue Heart partners with local organizations such as The STEAM Collab to give its students the opportunity to explore careers in STEM through monthly projects. Over the past few months of the pandemic, Morris said they’ve adapted their curriculum to toggle between live and virtual offerings.

This year, with support from Black Tech Inc. the upcoming project challenges students to build and program an interactive, exercise mirror — similar products retail for over $1,000 — that they can keep after the project.

Multitude of Opportunities

Morris explained that a few weeks out of each month are dedicated to STEM, because it offers his guys common sense, critical thinking skills and confidence. He added that “boys get bored” so he tries to offer a multitude of opportunities that will appeal to his students and create well-rounded people.

Additionally, each week includes other activities such as virtual, “culinary therapy” that teaches students the importance of mindfulness through cooking. The 28 boys in the program can also participate in Step practice and reconnect with an assigned mentor who checks in on each young man’s well-being.

For Blue Heart students like Dent, he’s taken to heart the lessons he’s learned in the program and Morris’ mentality to “hunt” and take every opportunity that comes your way.

“I like to not limit myself to like certain things, I just want to explore everything,” Dent said. “And that’s when you really find what you love to do when you explore a little bit more.”