- Mouse Alum, Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory High School, Chicago
- Columbia University
How did you become involved in Mouse?
In 7th grade, Riley was selected to be in the first Mouse program at his school. Throughout middle school, he met with Mouse Educator Ms. Smith and other students to learn about the building blocks of computers and how to support technology at his school.
Riley participated in a summer program with Mouse and Best Buy’s Geek Squad. “It was amazing. I was with other kids from around Chicago. We took apart computers, put them back together, and learned about HTML. It really excited my interest in technology."
How did your involvement in Mouse continue during high school?
During high school, Riley met with Mr. McCanney, the educator running the Mouse program, every day during lunch. Mr. McCanney became a valued mentor and role model to Riley. “While my friends were in the lunchroom, I was helping teachers with technology. Mouse gave me a sense of purpose. It was super important, especially from where I lived and grew up in the South Side of Chicago.”
“Mouse inspired me to pursue technology in 7th grade. I knew this was an opportunity that would set me apart. It got me into Columbia."
What was the impact of these experiences with Mouse?
Riley credits these experiences with sparking his curiosity and helping him to develop persistence. “When I was involved in Mouse, I was always interested in learning more. I felt a sense of responsibility and learned that you need to be persistent. Every day isn’t easy.”
Riley also feels that this inspired his interests in entrepreneurship. “It was not just learning about using technology, but also developing an understanding of how technology works. This translated into my school work, as I really wanted to understand how to apply my learning."
What is your perspective on the importance of diversity?
“It’s important that we create an understanding that diversity is not just ‘the right thing to do.’ It is good for business, as diverse thinking fosters an environment where people see things from different perspectives and more linkages happen.”
Riley helped to create BLOC, an online professional network connecting black millennials to opportunities, powerful career advice, and each other. He is also currently working on a project, called Etcetera, to increase diversity in entrepreneurship. “Women and minorities have impressive credentials, but they do not get the same funding.”
What are your thoughts for the future?
Riley describes himself as a “social entrepreneur and change maker.” “I want to be sure that any organization I am involved with is helping people. It’s been imparted to me from my teachers, my mentors and my family -- if you have the opportunity to help people, you have to make it count.”