by Fern Gillespie
In a 17,000-square-foot facility in Industry City, Black and Brown young people ages 18 to 24 are being trained in high-tech fields and fast-tracked into corporate jobs starting at $100,000.
The Marcy Lab School is a nonprofit founded by former teachers Reuben Ogbonna and Maya Bhattacharjee-Marcantonio. Before COVID, nine students were working remotely. Now, in Industry City, 100 students are coming through. A partnership with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation has secured The Marcy Lab School a new location in Bed Stuy when the new structure is completed. Our Time Press spoke with executive director Reuben Ogbonna, a Duke University grad and longtime Brooklyn resident (who lived on Marcy Avenue) and has taught at Excellence Boys Charter School in Bed Stuy and was Dean at Coney Island Prep High School.
OTP: What makes The Marcy Lab School unique?
RO: We have around 50 graduates. Our average salaries are over $100,000 a year. We work with companies like JP Morgan Chase. Square space and New York Times, and the list goes on. Our program is unique because only a few college graduates make that much in their first year. We designed a program for students to compete for jobs that typically require a four-year college degree.
OTP: What qualifications do students need to apply to The Marcy Lab School?
RO: They need to have an interest in and passion for technology. That looks like several different things, especially for this Generation Z. often, our schools may not have provided access to computer science or coding classes, but that doesn’t mean that our community or our students don’t have a passion or interest or even the skill set for tech. That’s the beautiful thing about GenZ. Whether it’s YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, robots, or any of the other platforms, tools, and games they use, they are developing fundamental skills. I don’t think they often realize just how transferable they are. So there has to be a passion and interest in technology. And just a general curiosity. Students who love looking things up and exploring new problems are the type of students who, when they graduate and get their jobs, will continue learning. So their skills stay sharp once the industry changes.
OTP: Why is attending The Marcy Lab School an alternative to college?
RO: Our students are all high school graduates. We want to create an alternative to college. The problem we are trying to solve is to provide more options and pathways for bright, hard-working students who are graduating high school and don’t want to take out debt to attend an expensive college. They don’t want to take a risk to go to a college that might be financially accessible but may not have the resources will ensure that when they graduate, they will get a good job.
OTP: What are some of the courses the students take outside of technology?
RO: We train in leadership development skills. It’s not enough for us to teach them just out of code. We must ensure they also have an opportunity to develop as well-rounded young people and leaders. We teach financial literacy, race, and identity development, racial justice, gender equality, and civic studies. Also, career fluency and professional readiness with résumé, cover letter, LinkedIn, job interviewing, and networking.
OTP: Do you think there are more opportunities for Black and Brown people in tech?
RO: There’s more opportunity than ever, and we want to make sure the black and brown Brooklynites have access to this career field that we’ve traditionally been locked out of. Often a college degree is correlated with a level of access to wealth that one’s family has. If we can help people who have been traditionally locked out of that system to get access to jobs that pay well, we can make a meaningful dent in the racial wealth gap over time.
For information on registering for The Marcy Lab School, contact: