Marcus Griggs
Detroiter Marcus Griggs has had an interest in technology since he was a kid, but not until attending the Apple Developer Academy did he have a way to use that interest. Now Griggs hopes other Detroiters can take advantage of this opportunity. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

Detroit Pastor Jerome Warfield wants to pass his knowledge of coding, marketing and design to young Detroiters. 

The pastor at United Baptist Church on the city’s west side said he has seen that access to technology is a barrier for many Detroit youths and he wants to help fix it.

“Technology moves the economy and moves the world,” said Warfield, one of nearly 100 graduates at the inaugural Apple Developer Academy in Detroit on Thursday. 

Jerome Warfield, a pastor at Unity Baptist Church in Detroit, wants to use the skills he gained at the nine-month Apple Developer Academy to provide tech skills to Detroit youth. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

“This is an opportunity (for me) to learn technology, to learn the theory behind technology, and then teach it to young people and be able to equip them to move forward in a major way,” he said.

The academy, which was run in a partnership with Apple, Michigan State University and funding support from the Gilbert Family Foundation and Rocket Companies, is the first Apple Developer Academy in the United States. 

The nine-month program teaches students coding, marketing, and design skills to help them develop apps for the iOS marketplace, which is used by Apple products. The iOS app economy supports more than 45,000 jobs in the state of Michigan, according to Michigan State University Spokesman Dan Olsen.

The free program is available for students ages 18 and up and runs 20 hours a week Monday through Friday. The first class started in October 2021 and organizers said that they hope to have 200 participants in the next class this fall. 

Students in the program, which launched as a part of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, must live in or near the city of Detroit. 

Warfield said he wants to apply the skills he’s learned to offer a similar, free learning opportunity for others interested in coding, marketing and business strategy. 

“It teaches you how to challenge the current system and come up with a better solution,” he said. “I want to teach young people throughout the city how to do that at our church and in other sites throughout the city.”

This “learn to earn” program idea is just one of the reasons Warfield is glad to have signed up for Apple’s Developer Academy, which he said can “help open doors for a lot of Detroiters.”

According to CNBC, Black employees make up 7.4% of the tech industry’s workforce. Mario Crippen, a videographer and fellow developer academy graduate, said Thursday that the program will help increase that number.

“Honestly, as a Black man in America, it is hard to find opportunities like this that give you the skills and get started in tech,” Crippen said. 

Detroiter Raven Scott said she had applied on a whim after seeing posts about the program in her Facebook feed. 

Raven Scott is a Detroit native and graduate in the inaugural class of the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

“I can honestly say that this program is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my adulthood,” Scott said. “Truly, it challenged my way of thinking. It gave me the opportunity to meet so many different people from different walks of life … that’s the highlight of being a part of this process.”

The program offers each student a free laptop and an iPhone to work on app development.

In Detroit, 70% of school-age children don’t have home broadband, ranking the city among the five least-connected cities in the country. Scott believes the program and its graduates can help address the city’s digital divide. 

“It gives opportunity to everyone and it’s not just one and done,” she said. “It honestly lets everyone from every background take part, it is accessible to all so it’s definitely something that everyone should join in and take part in.”

Scott presented an app called Expose during Thursday’s ceremony, along with her teammates. The app uses pictures on a user’s phone to identify restaurants, bars, and nature attractions that the user might be interested in. Scott came into the program with experience working on the business side of companies, but was initially hesitant to sign up because she doesn’t have a background in coding. 

“Coding is very tedious,” she said. “But if you stick with it and you really put your best foot forward, it definitely helps and you just are better because you are doing it repetitively.”

Other program graduates, like Marcus Griggs, entered the academy with an interest in the tech business that began when he was 8 years old. 

“When I heard about the Apple Developer Academy…I was like, ‘wow, this is it. This is the most innovative thing and it’s coming to Detroit,’” Griggs said. “So I want it to be a part of it, by all means.”

Griggs, of Detroit, said he formerly worked on the business side of a company called Infinity that partnered with Google. Despite his familiarity with the industry, Griggs called the program “a breath of fresh air.”

“The fact that they provided us with the tools and also the mentors that were able to give us their expertise and also give us an opportunity to learn what they learned and grow with them, it was amazing,” he said. 

For more information, visit the Apple Developer Academy website.

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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