Penn Staters’ App Aims To Give Voice To Underrepresented Students

A new app created by Penn State students aims to help minority students find their voice and navigate through college.

Vybrnt is designed to support underrepresented students throughout their college journeys. The app creates an opportunity for students to be part of a social networking platform that provides resources and connections to marginalized groups. 

The app will allow student organizations, faculty, and mentors at Penn State to use the platform to communicate through the app via messages and streamed information. They will be able to find events and resources on campus and discover new organizations. The app also uses artificial intelligence to personalize each user’s experience based on the topics they want to see.

The idea behind the app came from a lot of miscommunication Joel Sakyi, founder of Vybrnt, saw within the Penn State community. 

“When I first came to Penn State, I was lost. Without connections, you’re not gonna hear about events happening on campus,” Sakyi said. “The idea behind the app is that when underrepresented students come to Penn State for the first time, they’re gonna have this app where they will find the student organizations, the resources from the different diversity offices, right from the start.”

Sakyi is also involved with the Paul Robeson Cultural Center and BLUEprint, a peer mentoring program that offers cultural, social, and academic support to students of color. To him, the connections he made in these organizations were important for his successful journey through college and in the creation of Vybrnt. 

 “I was grateful for all these people and pockets at Penn State, they made me the leader that I am today,” Sakyi said.

Sakyi first started working on Vybrnt in the summer of 2019. He didn’t know how to make an app back then, so he reached out to professors, his campus mentor Jason Gines, and the Dean of Information Sciences and Technology Andrew Sears.

The team behind Vybrant is composed of diverse underrepresented students who want to create a bigger sense of belonging among the community and create opportunities for these students. 

Christian Medford, who is responsible for the management and finance of Vybrnt, heard about the app when Sakyi came to him in the PRCC and asked if he wanted to be on the team.  

“I wanted to help minority students on campus and other unrepresented students,” Medford said. “That was a big motivation for me to jump on and say ‘this is something that he wants to do and it’s going to help a lot of people so why not.”

The app is a one-stop-shop for everything that underrepresented students might need. They will be able to find academic help, scholarship opportunities, clubs, and events that might interest the student. 

“It is a place for people who want to help themselves, do better at Penn State, and get better within the Penn State community,” Medford said. “One of the important features is that anything that they want us to include, we will make it happen. That is the motivating factor.” 

Medford said that the team wants to make sure that minority students feel welcomed in the Penn State community, especially given the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a minority student on campus is kinda overwhelming to be new to Penn State,” said Medford. “With everything that happened over the summer and COVID going on, we want to show that at the end of the day this is still our community too. You are more than just a student at Penn state. This is your school. Own it, and find your community too.

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About the Author

Renata Daou

Renata is a junior majoring in International Politics and one of Onward State's contributors. She's from Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil and no, she doesn't live in the middle of the Amazon forest. She likes learning new languages, reading, writing, and talking about the one time she went bungee jumping.
Follow her on Twitter @renatadaou to see her rant in Portenglish or e-mail her at [email protected] for serious inquires.

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