In 2012 California native Rick Gibson helped launch a program in Oakland geared toward introducing web design to young people to help them explore tech-related careers. Now with help from a few local tech-savvy young creatives and a couple of students and graduates from Forsyth Tech Community College, Gibson is looking to launch a similar program here in Winston-Salem.
In Oakland, the United Roots Web Design & Social Media Marketing Youth Training Program was supported by an initiative called United Roots Oakland, a center that provides programs and opportunities to engage and empower youth from marginalized communities – the City of Oakland Summer Youth Employment Program, Hitsworks Enterprises LLC, and another initiative called Youth Uprising. During the 10-week program, students in the Oakland area learned the ins and outs of web design and content management skills. The program also provided opportunities for students to put their skills to use after the course, by connecting them with business owners and churches in the area in need of a website or building a social media presence.
Gibson, who relocated to North Carolina to be closer to his family, said his goal for the ONTV Studios and the Urban Success Academy (USA) here in Winston-Salem, is to take the model of the United Roots program and add new programs.
“I helped start a similar program in Oakland that focused on a web development and web training program. We’re going to change that format and roll out a pilot program here,” said Gibson during an interview with The Chronicle earlier this week.
ONTV Studios, located on Brownsboro Road, includes a STEM Motorsports simulator, a record company (Vicewood Records), and a network of web designers, music and video producers. Gibson referred to his Urban Success Academy team, who are all under the age of 23, as his “Fundraising Council.” Gibson, who will turn 65 later this month, said it’s important to get the young involved because they understand technology and the needs of the next generation’s movers and shakers.
“You need input from them because they know this stuff and a lot of them are right out of high school,” Gibson continued. “It’s important that you have young people lobbying for their own education because when you see adults lobbying for education and programs, it doesn’t have the same impact as young people.”
Jared Williams and Zion Morgan, who make up Vicewood Records, started making music together while studying at Wingate University. Morgan, who is from Charlotte, said for him music and singing is a stress reliever. Williams said he wants to do music for a living and he wants to restore trust and accountability in music. Both said ONTV Studios gives them the space they need. The duo spends hours in the studio recording.
“I’ve been singing all my life so I’ve always found that when I sing, that’s how I express my feelings, so what better way to work on that than to record,” Morgan said.
Williams said, “I think it’s amazing because I’m still pretty young to have a space where I can go and record because I’m used to doing it out of my bedroom and it’s ten times better.”
Carson Pruitt, who will lead the USA STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) Motorsports team, said his passion for racing and motorsports started when he got his first car. Pruitt, who recently graduated from Richard Childress Program at FTCC, said motorsports has been proven to be a good way to integrate engineering and math into something that’s fun and entertaining.
“Kids don’t find interest in it, and motorsports over time has proven that it interests kids. And it is engineering, math, science, all that rolled into one,” Pruitt said.
Roberto Martinez, who specializes in web design and videography, said his interest in creative arts sparked when he took a graphic design class in high school and the flame just grew from there. Martinez, who is also a member of the U.S. Military, said what he enjoys most about graphic and web design is having the opportunity to help clients’ ideas come to life.
“Back in the day, people would make fun of anyone with a degree in graphic design or anything like that. Now those are the people who are getting paid the most,” Martinez said. “People who can tell a story are worth a lot more now, especially in this era of everyone wanting to be an entrepreneur.”
Martinez said what he enjoys most about being a member of the Urban Success Academy team is being able to work with other creatives.
“With these guys around, I really get to see some truly amazing artists, musicians, photographers, and videographers,” he said.
To introduce the Urban Success Academy and ONTV Studios to the community, in 2022 five local students will have the opportunity to participate in a free 12-week pilot program at the studio. Gibson said the studio is also there to help educators, families, churches, and other entities with multimedia needs.
When asked why he thinks Winston-Salem is a good place to launch this program, he said, “Winston-Salem is a microcosm … it has all the problems of all the big cities, so this could be a laboratory to solve problems here that could be replicated in other areas.”
For more information on ONTV Studios or the Urban Success Academy,, call 336-745-7349. For more information on Vicewood Records visit www.vicewood.com or “Vicewood Records” on Facebook.