The Georgia Tech Young Alumni Council is pleased to welcome Erica Louise Richards, HTS 15, to their team this year. Erica Louise, better known as Rica G., lives her life with passion, devoting her time to connecting youth with the power of education and art. Read below to hear in her own words how she’s making an impact on the community.
Q: Tell Us About Yourself:
ELR: My name is Erica Louise Neish Richards, but most people know me as “Rica G.” I am a first generation Jamaican-American from the Chicagoland Area. I graduated in the Spring of 2015 with my Bachelors of Science in History, Technology, & Society. Currently, I teach Hip-Hop based computer science at the Kindezi School in Old Fourth Ward. When I am not in the classroom, I am running my non-profit, The Cultivating Young People Harnessing Energy & Respect (CYPHER) Program. I don’t just teach through Hip-Hop, I live it. After graduation, I began building my brand as a spoken word artist and now, musician.
Q: Why did you decide to attend Georgia Tech?
ELR: In the sixth grade, I made the audacious decision that I would one day own the electric company so that my mother would never have to pay another light bill. I immediately researched the top colleges for my ideal major, and I knew that I was going to attend Georgia Tech to study Electrical Engineering. When I reached high school, I attended an event called “Welcome Weekend” hosted by the (then) Minority Recruitment Team. That experience solidified my interest in GT.
Q: What were some of the activities you were involved with as a student at GT?
ELR: If there was a degree for student involvement, I would have graduated a double major. I was actively involved with over a dozen campus organizations during my five years of undergrad. My participation in the GT Society of Black Engineers’ freshmen leadership component, Lambda Delta Rho, spearheaded my career as an active student leader. Working with the African American Student Union was definitely my most formative leadership experience. Although the bulk of my involvement was with the various Black Student Organizations, I managed to reach out into the broader Tech community through groups like Relay for Life, Lions Club, and Solar Jackets.
Q: How did you get involved in your current activities and employment?
ELR: Upon graduation, I served in AmeriCorps through Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing. As the Tutoring & Afterschool Project Coordinator at Maynard H. Jackson High School, I was exposed to the highs and lows of life as an educator. During this time, I was also volunteering as a fifth grade English/Language Arts tutor and I realized how much of an impact I could have on students if I could get them engaged in learning at a younger age. I contacted the amazing Pre-Teaching Advisor, Susan Belmonte, and she helped me find my current position at The Kindezi School.
Q: How do you utilize skills and/or connections that you gained at GT today?
ELR: Every month I bring in people or resources from campus to share with our scholars. We’ve programmed robots from the College of Computing and learned about engineering from graduate students. Thanks to our collaboration with the GTSBE Pre-Collegiate Initiative, The CYPHER Program, Inc. brings dozens of middle and high school students to Tech’s campus every other Saturday. During CYPHER’s early days as an afterschool club, our students performed at an African American Student Union community service event, spoke at an event for The Diamond Campaign, and we recorded a mixtape in the Lewis H. Beck Multipurpose Room.
Q: Where do you pull your motivation from as an artist?
ELR: Motivation for my artistry stems from an insatiable desire to provide my audience with a sense of healing. Whether it’s a poem in my book, a spoken word piece, or a song, I tend to compose with the intentions of positively contributing to a community bigger than myself. I write for my students and mentees to encourage them to amplify their voices. I write to honor my mentors and role models. I seek to create projects that will serve as evidence that my life was not lived in vain.
Q: Where did you find inspiration as an artist while you were a student at Georgia Tech?
ELR: Being an artist at Tech was challenging to say the least. For my first performance, I read an original poem at the OMED Challenge 2010 Talent Show. Afterwards, one of my role models, Makeda Cyrus, told me to stick with it and that being known as a poet on campus would be good for me. Her words kept me encouraged. In addition to featuring at various events, I made it a point to look out for other artists on campus. We have a pretty supportive and tight knit community now that includes underclassmen, upperclassmen, and alumni. Whether it is through mentoring or attending a performance, the bonds I’ve developed within the GT Black artists’ community are essential to my individual growth as an artist.
Q: How have you continued to stay involved in the Georgia Tech community?
ELR: I am constantly on campus. You may have seen me in the Ferst Center opening up for Taste of Africa or attending the unparalleled What’s Going On Production 2017. My main focus is connecting local K-12 students with college students and resources at Georgia Tech. This means anything from registering high school girls for the Black Women in STEAM Luncheon to bringing elementary school students to campus for a football game. Aside from that, I am committed to bridging the gap between young alumni and current students. Working with the Georgia Tech Black Alumni Organization and serving on the Georgia Tech Young Alumni Council allows me to build on this concept with an even bigger team. The end goal is to see more connectivity between Atlanta’s underserved youth and Georgia Tech’s brilliant student and alumni population.
Q: What advice do you have for other young alumni?
ELR: Be good to people. Be good to yourself. Act out of love as often as possible and know how to humble yourself.
In the summer of 2015, Erica Louise self-published Commentary on the Human Experience. In December of 2016, she also released an audio anthology, What’s the G. for?, and plans to release a music project this February.