Big Mama would be proud! Soul Food actress and entrepreneur Malinda Williams held a coding boot camp at Jackson State University last Saturday. Her mission is to empower young women who want to pursue a career in computer science.

The coding boot camp geared towards HBCU students is called the E.S.T.E.A.M. Project.Which stands for entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering arts, and math. This project comes from Williams and the Arise and Shine Foundation, Incorporated.

The Arise and Shine Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps fulfill William’s vision to be a conduit of information, inspiration, and empowerment to women in all walks of life. The foundation partners with educational institutions, corporations, and the community to implement and support programs that advance the personal and professional development of underserved and underrepresented women and girls.

The E.S.T.E.A.M. Project is designed around three pillars: upskilling core competencies in technology, fine-tuning soft skills for business success, and facilitating connections for industry mentorships. By addressing the gender gap in the tech industry and championing the cause of women in technology, this bootcamp seeks to create a more inclusive and equitable tech landscape.

“As a professional actress and someone who has experienced first-hand the support of my community, I understand the value of collaboration and paying it forward,” Williams said a press release. “The Arise and Shine Foundation exists to empower women to reach their goals and coding is a powerful tool – it is the language of the future. The E.S.T.E.A.M. Project will offer young women an avenue to acquire valuable skills to propel them forward in the 21st century.”

The bootcamp was held in the Jackson State Science building where students were able to get one-on-one time with Williams. Students engaged in a variety of coding activities and workshops such as app development, S.T.E.A.M. training, and Apple programming language. They also learned how to build their own websites. Willams also shared some of her knowledge as well as her personal experiences in the industry. The young group of women not only participated in the training, but they also got to engage in sessions to help boost their confidence and motivation, something Willams says is very important.

“We’re giving them a foundation for confidence, we are loving on them and we’re letting them know that they are valued and supported and if there is anything that we can do to help make their future that much brighter, and know that they can walk into any room and own it, those are some of the concepts we want to impart, instill, teach, and demonstrate for them.”

Williams is best known for her portrayal of Tracy “Bird” Van Adams on the television adaption of the 1997 film Soul Food. She has been seen in other projects including The Wood, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, The Cosby Show, First Sunday, Daddy’s Little Girls, and more.

In a brief interview with WLBT 3, Jackson State University student, Ka’Pri Burden shared her thoughts on Williams and the boot camp:

“Knowing that she took the time to learn how to code herself when society had different offs facing her is empowering and inspiring,” she said.