Eric Benari is the founder and Executive Director of the Techie Youth project. Techie Youth is a registered 501(c)(3) charity based out of the Long Island City section of Queens, NY. Benari, launched the tech-focused social start-up to better the odds against the dire statistics facing youth that are aging out of foster care. Nearly all older teens in foster care are statistically likely to become homeless or incarcerated soon after reaching their age of emancipation and losing their foster care benefits and housing.
This unsolved problem didn’t sit well with Benari. In an interview on iHeart Radio’s “This Is America with Rich Valdes”, Benari announced a laptop giveaway and is following that up with another bit of swag for his Techie Youth students — free brand new Brooks Brothers suits for the teens in the program.
The Techie Youth laptop ceremony is slated for Friday, August 20th, and aims to equip students and other teens participating in the center’s technology and entrepreneurship program with the professional attire they need to land their first clients and secure new gigs as self-sufficient entrepreneurial members of the workforce.
When asked why he had made the sacrifice to leave the lucrative work of a CTO (Chief Technical Officer) at various companies including a stint at a Yahoo! acquisition, Benari replied, “I don’t know, I just put one foot in front of the other and did it..somebody had to.”
As a tech executive, running a lean organization at Techie Youth and bootstrapping is commonplace for Benari, lessons that he passes on to students in the entrepreneurship and technology programs.
With self-reliance being a goal for all students, students who are musicians learn about music and video production and how to sell their poetry and music online using their newly acquired skills.
The charity serves 3,000 youth from challenging backgrounds ranging from teens involved in the juvenile justice system to others facing extreme poverty and homelessness. Techie Youth does all of this with only about five percent of the budget of charities doing similar work. Raising money to continue addressing this ongoing need is one of the organization’s top priorities.
While the bulk of their current support comes from Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, Benari says the quest for new partnerships is just as perpetual as the problems that the organization solves for teenagers regularly.
This cutting-edge nimbleness to respond to what is needed is what attracted RIAA-certified platinum recording artist Shawn “MIMS” Mims to the organization. Mims is the founder of the music production and blockchain app Cre8tor (RecordGram) and sees how training students to work remotely on coding is a natural point of synergy for his tech start-up and others. The chart-topping rapper and tech entrepreneur offered words of encouragement and wisdom to students awarded with laptops at a recent ceremony in Long Island City. Other celebrities that have lent support to Techie Youth include Redfoo from LMFAO, Actor Stephen Baldwin, and more notables that are listed on the Techie Youth website.
For additional information on the free programming that Techie Youth provides for at-risk teens, like courses on trading stocks or starting a remote tech-based business, visit their website at TechieYouth.com.