Wish Book

Wish Book: Tech-talented teen could use helping hand to reach his goals

North Miami Beach Senior High student Nathan Hagood, 18, hopes to attend college to study software engineering but can use some help with college entrance fees and related costs. Hagood is photographed inside the computer lab at North Miami Beach Senior High.
North Miami Beach Senior High student Nathan Hagood, 18, hopes to attend college to study software engineering but can use some help with college entrance fees and related costs. Hagood is photographed inside the computer lab at North Miami Beach Senior High. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Nathan Hagood was always good at tinkering and figuring things out.

As a leader of his school’s robotics team, he helped his teammates at North Miami Beach Senior High build robots from scratch from recycled materials like scrap metal and plastic, while students at wealthier schools were able to purchase parts and robotics kits.

“I really like robotics. We learned how to program and put the robots together, using power tools. We brainstormed what to make and built the robot together,” said Nathan, 18, who has been involved with robotics since 2011. The first year, they built a robot that shot basketballs, he said.

His team competed nationally in ninth grade. “We got blown out in the first level, but the important thing is that you are learning by doing what you love to do, and it’s really about cooperation,” he said. “What my team had that other teams didn’t have is a lack of funds. So we made makeshift robots.”

But this academic year, his school’s well-liked engineering teacher and robotics mentor, German Dulanto, moved to a different school, and the school robotics team was discontinued because of a lack of funding. Nathan was disappointed but has continued building his skills in other areas of technology while helping younger kids learn about robotics. For instance, he is training to be a mentor for a Florida International University-led program teaching robotics concepts to younger kids through Legos, and was an instructor at a Broward Urban League STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) event this summer.

Now it’s Nathan’s turn to need a helping hand.

Nathan is a senior and wants to attend college and study to be a software engineer as well as enter the National Guard. He’s immersed in the application process now, but college application and entry fees can add up quickly: There are the costs of applications, tests, road trips for college tours, the required deposits upon acceptance, potential dormitory deposits and the host of other fees required before the student even gets there. Nathan needs about $1,000 to cover those costs.

Calvetta Phair, founder of the On It Foundation, nominated Nathan to receive assistance from Wish Book readers. On It Foundation is a Miami-based national nonprofit that collects, refurbishes and distributes computers to children in low-income families. On It also runs a robotics program, which Nathan has been a leader of, and trains kids in computer coding. Phair knows all about needing a helping hand – she started On It after she had a difficult time finding a computer donation for her own young daughter when Phair couldn’t afford one.

Nathan, who has two younger brothers, is an outstanding young leader and his mother Kathleen Hagood, who works in accounting for the Seminole Indians, is always willing to lend a hand to On It and the students, transporting the kids to competitions and expos and helping with event planning and set up, Phair said. Now they need help, and she was pleased to nominate them.

Nathan plans to apply to a handful of colleges, but his top three choices right now are Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, the new state university for STEM, or the University of Florida or Florida International University, both large schools with strong engineering programs. Nathan likes the idea of a smaller school with a tightly focused STEM program and opportunities for internships, although the larger universities have track records.

“I would love him to be local, but if the best school for him is farther away, I want that for him and we’ll figure it out,” his mother said, acknowledging it would be easier financially if he could live at home. “For a lot of the clubs he has been in, he has been a president or a leader, and he has those skills. This summer, he went to a STEM program for the U.S. Naval Academy for a week … I am very proud of him.”

Nathan first got interested in computers in middle school after a teacher helped him realize that he had both an interest and a skill in it. In high school, he took all the classes that were offered in computer areas. He has participated in the school’s Academy of Information Technology, and he competed in a Future Business Leaders of America competition in web design. This year, he is taking Web Design III. He said he was the first Miami-Dade County Public Schools student to be certified in LabVIEW web design software.

“He has such a love to learn. He doesn’t take it for granted,” said Phair. Nathan has continued as a leader in On It’s robotics program. “When we had the competition, I received so many compliments on how professional our team was,” Phair said. “When people received emails from him, they thought it was from an adult.”

Nathan hopes to one day work for Microsoft or another big company, but first, there’s university — if his dreams come true.

How to help

Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year.

▪ To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook

▪ To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444

▪ For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com

▪ Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans

Read more at Miami Herald.com/wishbook

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