Verizon revealed its Innovative Learning program for Minority Males at the 2016 Essence Festival.

The two year program will give middle-school boys access to high grade technology, allowing them to learn coding, 3D design, STEM, and more. Students will be enrolled in all day technology courses at participating universities across the nation during the summer, and will meet with mentors once the school year resumes.

During a dinner at the famous New Orleans restaurant Dooky Chase, Verizon’s Vice President of Customer Care Kwame Trotman and Kelly Rowland discussed the importance of the new initiative.

“When you think about the Verizon Innovative Learning Program for minority males, that’s an opportunity for us to actually touch young youth, right? And we have a great representation in the back room, ” said Trotman. “At an early age and given the encouragement and letting them know that we have the tools and we also give them the pathway to allow them to do anything they want to do. They are our future creators, they are our future leaders, they are the ones that one day will help lead our company to greatness.”

Rowland praised Verizon for deciding to invest in Black boys and their futures, but also provided the boys in attendance with some advice.

“Looking at these gentlemen, I do see my son and I just pray they make great decisions. I pray you always listen and that you take in your surroundings. It’s fun listening to “Panda” but “Panda” can’t get you your education. “Panda” can’t help you in school, “Panda” is like all those things, like I said we love “Panda” I get it but just make sure you have your priorities,” said Rowland. “If you have your goals, write those down. And put them right in front of you everyday. That way you don’t lose thought and you don’t lose sight of what exactly it is that you want.”

Colleges participating in the Verizon Innovative Learning Program include Clark Atlanta University, Delaware State University, University of the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C, Texas Southern University, and Trotman’s alma matter Hampton University.