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Alpha Rho Chapter Alumni Association's Winter 2021 Digest

Brother Ge'Juan Kamal Cole (Fall 1998) Appointed A

Director Of The 40-Year-Old Texas Lyceum

On Thursday, January 28th, The Texas Lyceum held its Investiture ceremony in Austin and for the first time also livestreamed the annual ceremony. Judge Don Willett, United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and Texas Lyceum Class of 2004, officiated the ceremony and swore in our new president, Castlen Kennedy (Houston, Class of 2015), and 16 new directors from across the state. Brother Ge'Juan K. Cole (Fall 1998), pictured above, bottom row, 2nd from the left, was sworn in as one of this year's class of new Directors.

Brother Ge'Juan K. Cole P.E., PMP currently serves as Director of Tactical Projects at Williams Companies and is based in the Houston, Texas marketplace. He is a 2002 Mathematics graduate of Morehouse College with a Mechanical Engineering dual-degree from The Georgia Institute of Technology, and is a 2016 MBA graduate of University of Houston's C.T. Bauer College of Business. Brother Cole has experience developing natural gas infrastructure growth opportunities in the U.S. and significant experience in project management, project development, facilities engineering, construction management, risk management and cost estimating for growth projects.

About The Texas Lyceum:

Forty years ago, a group of young Texans from the business, professional and academic communities came together at Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas to discuss an idea. The idea: that Texas was at a turning point in its history and had an opportunity—indeed, a responsibility—to become a great state. These leaders concluded there was a need to bring together the various segments of state in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical and non-adversarial setting to solve the problems facing Texas. The result: The Texas Lyceum.

“Lyceum” is a name proud in history and rich in promise. The Lyceum concept itself is more than 2,500 years old and dates back to ancient Greece, when Aristotle and the leadership of Athens would gather to discuss, debate, and define the critical issues of the day. In the United States, the idea of a “lyceum” has been alive since 1826 when Josiah Holbrook of Connecticut dreamed of “seeing established in every town and village a lyceum for the discussion of issues and the dissemination of knowledge.”

By 1834, his dream was realized with some 3,000 lyceums established. These early lyceum iterations were intended to be the focal point of a community’s educational base, providing not only forums for speeches and debates but also libraries. In 1839, a lyceum was established in Austin, the Republic of Texas, with Sam Houston as an honorary member. This forerunner to the present Texas Lyceum debated questions concerning annexation, slavery, temperance, and Indians—the philosophical and practical concerns of life on the frontier.

The 96-member Texas Lyceum board acts as a catalyst to bring together diverse opinions and expertise to focus on national and state issues and seeks to emphasize constructive private sector, public sector and individual responses. The Lyceum selects new directors to fill the seats of outgoing directors annually through a rigorous application process that ensures the 96 directors represent the breadth of the diversity in Texas. The selection process ensures Lyceum directors are active and involved in their communities, have demonstrated leadership abilities and are eager to contribute their talents and time to the betterment of Texas. The Lyceum seeks to:

  • Identify and develop the next generation of top leadership in the State of Texas

  • Educate its Directors by identifying and exploring the interrelationships of the major issues facing Texas

  • Help bring a better understanding of these issues to the state’s key decision-makers

  • Promote an appreciation of the responsibilities of stewardship of the values, traditions, and resources of Texas.

To accomplish these purposes, the Lyceum hosts conferences, conducts the nationally acclaimed Texas Lyceum Poll, convenes programs at which Directors explore, offers public administration graduate students an academically centered opportunity through the Texas Lyceum Fellowship, and discusses key economic and social issues of the state and nation. The Lyceum also cultivates the next generation of Texas leadership through its scholarship and fellowship programs.

Pictured above: Brother Cole and family outside of the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC.

Among its alumni, the Lyceum counts those who have served our state and our nation at its highest echelons, including President George W. Bush, Senators Ted Cruz and Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, multiple U.S. congressmen, Governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, and U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Don Willett.


A Billionaire Paid Off His Student Loans.

Now This N.J. Native Is Paying It Forward

(Ernest D.V. Holmes -- Spring 2018)

Pictured above: CodeHouse co-founders Tavis Thompson (left) and Ernest Holmes (right) pose with a student at the organization's 2019 Tech Exposure Day event in Atlanta. Brother Thompson is also a member of Alpha Rho, Spring 2019.

By Tennyson Donyéa | NJ Advance Media for, December 13, 2020

In the spring of 2019, when Ernest Holmes graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, he got a huge surprise — billionaire Robert Smith was paying off all of his student loans.

Smith, a tech investor who was the school’s commencement speaker that year, paid off the student loans for Holmes’ entire graduating class. Smith’s directive for the debt-free grads was simple: pay it forward.

Holmes, a Sayreville native, took those words to heart and he’s currently making good at it; he and a classmate, Tavis Thompson, founded CodeHouse, a non-profit company building bridges nationwide, cultivating a pipeline between students of color and industry-leading technology companies.

The goal is to introduce Black and brown students to technology-related skills and opportunities early in life — critical work, Holmes said. Black youth are the least likely racial group to enter into the often lucrative technology fields, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Pictured above: Brother Holmes at his 2019 graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We’re trying to inspire and encourage students of color...we’re literally preparing the next generation to start thinking forward and start thinking ahead to what career pathway they want to go down,” Holmes told NJ Advance Media Tuesday.

Originally created for youth in the Atlanta area, CodeHouse began partnering with major tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Pixar to host “Tech Exposure Days,” where local high school students attended an expo and heard from keynote speakers about career paths and higher education, and competed in technology-based competitions where they could sharpen their skills.

That was before the coronavirus spread rapidly throughout the U.S.

While much of the nation shut down due to the pandemic, CodeHouse was just getting started. It forced Holmes and company to go virtual, and to start thinking about expanding nationally.

Pictured above: CodeHouse 2019

Last month, the organization hosted its second event, which organizers labeled a “virtual field trip,” open to students around the country, including 593 kids from 24 schools in New Jersey. “I had my hometown from Sayreville tuned in,” Holmes said. “It was definitely cool to be able to connect back with some of my roots and to have them attend the event that I created.”

CodeHouse’s mission is in line with the work computer science advocates in the Garden State have been doing in communities of color over the last decade, said Daryl Detrick, Advocacy Chair for the Computer Science Teachers Association of New Jersey and a member of the state’s Computer Science Advisory Board. Detrick is also a science teacher at Warren Hills High School.

Pictured above: CodeHouse 2019

“(My students) found it inspirational,” Detrick told NJ Advance Media. “They like hearing from people who are in college and people who are in the field, and getting a better feel for opportunities that are available to them.”

“I just think making students feel a part of a community, making students feel that they fit into that community is a big (takeaway from CodeHouse’s virtual field trip). And having role models that you know that they can relate to is important,” Detrick said.

Black and Hispanic students make up 44% of New Jersey’s school system, yet only around 16% of students who take the AP Computer Science exam are Black and Hispanic, according to Detrick. The good news is enrollment for the course rose 1,272% among Black students and 1,608% among Hispanic students between 2010 and 2019, Detrick said, elaborating that there is more work to be done to improve equity in this area.

“There are currently over 10,000 open computer science jobs in New Jersey and 500,000 open computer science jobs in America that we do not have enough people to fill. And the average computer science job in New Jersey makes about $108,000,” Detrick said. “So if we can teach these kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds computer science education and cybersecurity, we can take them in a short period of time from low income to middle income.”

Pictured above: CodeHouse co-founders Brothers Holmes and Thompson at the Alpha Rho Chapter Memorial Obelisk on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Nearly 5,000 students from 20 other states and Washington D.C., attended the virtual experience, where one student who plans to attend a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and major in computer science was awarded a $10,000 scholarship. CodeHouse also gave out $30,000 in other prizes: new Xbox consoles, laptops and other gadgets.