Winter 2004-2005

Raw Talent at Playing2Win
by Anthony Rhodes screen shot

On the corner of 111th Street and 5th Avenue, two young men with corn rolls and baggy pants spent their summer working side-by-side to make ends meet and were never questioned by the police patrolling the area.

Shem Rajoon and Muoyo Okome are web designers who combined their Dreamweaver, Flash and Adobe Photoshop skills to create Playing2Win 's website. Okome was responsible for the programming and Rajoon focused on graphic design. The two master minds work hand in hand when it comes to designing web sites but they both will be the first to tell you that it has taken years of practice to develop marketable skills.

Muoyo Okome
Muoyo Okome

Okome is completing his senior year in Princeton University's Computer Science Department and learned about P2W's internship opportunities through a job training program at school. “I chose Playing2Win because I knew that I could exercise my skills in a comfortable environment,” said Okome. The Brooklyn native took computer science classes in high school and found a love for technology. “I always wanted to lean how to design my own video game,” he said. When Okome graduates from Princeton next year he plans to start his own software and web development business.

Shem Rajoon
Shem Rajoon

Rajoon, on the other hand, comes to P2W from another community based organization called Harlemlive, an online teen publication run by inner city youth, where he acquired most of his skills. Rajoon was 11 years old when he discovered his love for technology and explained that he started out with photography. “I learned how to edit photos using Adobe Photoshop and it took off from there,” he said. Rajoon's motivation comes from his hunger for success. As a young boy, Rajoon never thought that technology would have any significance in his life but in 1997 that all changed when he met the Harlemlive founder Richard Calton, who took him in and showed him how fascinating technology can really be. It didn't take long for Rajoon to realize that technology touches all aspects of life. “I would encourage other young adults to try it out before completely disregarding it,” he said.

The teenage wonder made it very clear that community technology centers (CTCs) are essential in low-social economic areas because they give young adults a reason to stay off the streets. Rajoon has worked on a number of different web sites such as WNET's www.thirteen org and New York's Boys & Girls Harbor. Rajoon also works for HL Designs, a company created by Harlemlive.

Rajoon also feels organizations like Harlemlive and P2W are more resourceful than the public school system because of the freedom to explore different technological advances at your own pace. “In school there are too many time constraints and curriculum limitations,” he said.

However, there are disadvantages when it comes to a CTC. “They don't have enough financial support and they don't get enough publicity so people don't know about them,” said Rajoon. Although Rajoon spends most of his time designing web sites he still finds time to play the latest video games on his Playstation 2 and X-box systems. Five years from now Rajoon can see himself running his own web development business somewhere in Harlem.

Although Rajoon and Okome have big plans for the future they will always conduct business with community technology centers like P2W. The future looks very bright for these young men who have managed to remain focused in a very difficult field; distractions come in and out of their lives and so far they have done a phenomenal job of beating stereotypes to become productive young men.

Anthony Love Rhodes works with Playing2Win in New York City.


Post a comment

Remember personal info?

* Denotes required field.