This V Teamer uses hip-hop to encourage success in STEM and life

Sharing lessons from the rap game and video games, DaVonte Suarez inspires ‘future leaders of the world.’

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DaVonte Suarez volunteers his time to talk to middle-school students about being a financial analyst and hip-hop artist.

At the start of every talk DaVonte Suarez has with students, he gets a little nervous. “I feel like I’m talking to the future leaders of the world,” he says to the middle schoolers assembled at Alabama’s Tuskegee University for the Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers program.

From his hometown in Tulsa, OK, Suarez talks to the young campers via livestream about gaming, basketball, music—and STEM.

The students were attending the four-week Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers summer program, which gives them an opportunity to learn digital skills, such as 3D printing and virtual reality, and social entrepreneurship. They also get to talk with professionals who work in STEM like Suarez, a financial analyst for Verizon. The program supports Verizon’s digital inclusion goal to help provide digital skills training to 10 million youth by 2030.

After establishing a mutual appreciation for pop culture, Suarez tells the middle schoolers that he transferred his video game capabilities into job skills. Critical thinking, communication, organization and being a team player are all a part of his day at the office.

Suarez’s future wasn’t always so promising: He says he graduated last in his high school class. Yet he went onto a career where he helps oversee million-dollar accounts for Verizon, and also started his own music label.

Suarez’s passion for community, culture and mentorship can be seen and heard in the music he’s released under the handle iamDES, including tracks like “Boy Meets World” and "Lose It All.” His work also appears on the 2021 album Fire in Little Africa, which commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Those rhymes also relate his early years as a Black kid growing up in Compton, CA. “If I can make it from where I came from, you can make it—it is possible,” he says.

For Countess Williams, one of the Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers program students at Tuskegee, hearing about Suarez’s childhood helps her see herself on his path. “His background inspires me,” says Williams. “I could do the same thing.”

Tuskegee Youth Program Coordinator Lakiah Clark says Suarez’s presentation made a nontraditional career a tangible experience for the students. “He helped students to identify skills they can practice now that will prove useful in their academic and occupational pursuits,” she explains.

Such takeaways are the reason Suarez gets excited about speaking to students, which he’s done several times this year as part of the Citizen Verizon Volunteers program. “I think it’s important to let these kids know each step of the way that there's somebody out here who really does believe in you,” says Suarez. “Just let them know that.”

Visit the Citizen Verizon Volunteers portal to see what volunteer activities inspire you.

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