Looking back on his time as a teen at Artists For Humanity, Cameron Akeredolu credits the organization with helping him to discover what he is passionate about. The connection between AFH and Akeredolu’s interests, however, is not what you might expect. His niche is not painting, nor is it drawing, photography, or even graphic design–it’s problem solving. While an outsider to the organization might struggle to understand how his experience at AFH guided him toward a career in information technology, the path is clear to Akeredolu, who continues to express gratitude for the organization’s mentorship over a decade later.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Akeredolu moved to Boston at 10 years old, where he would later attend Jeremiah E. Burke High School in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood. Though his family had few connections in Boston, his parents happened to meet an AFH co-founder who hired Akeredolu’s older brother. Too young at the time, Akeredolu eventually followed in his brother’s footsteps, joining AFH in 2009 as a freshman in high school. For the next few years, until his graduation from Jeremiah E. Burke, he would remain at AFH, exploring the organization’s resources as well as his own creativity.
Akeredolu pictured as a teen.
Akeredolu’s first impression of AFH, he admits, was a bit intimidating. Surrounded by teens who attended other Boston area schools, and completely lacking technical artistic knowledge, he felt overwhelmed. These fears, however, would be quickly soothed as he grew familiar with the organization’s welcoming environment.
Akeredolu (far left) with other AFH teens.
While he began his AFH experience with a few weeks in the Painting Studio, Akeredolu was relieved to eventually be moved to the Sculpture Studio (now known as 3D Design), where he would remain for the rest of his time—giving him the opportunity to also experience AFH’s wood shop. Though he enjoyed meeting new people and making friends in the large, upbeat Painting Studio, Akeredolu felt more at home learning fabrication techniques. Working alongside the 3D Design Studio mentors, he learned about creating furniture concepts, laminating materials, and building functional chairs and tables. While he considered himself a creative person prior to AFH, he had never before had access to the professional guidance and resources the organization provided.
Akeredolu as a teen at AFH.
Having completed many client projects during his time at AFH, Akeredolu struggles to pick a favorite. One that seems to stand out in his memory, however, is a bicycle rack commissioned by the City of Boston for Mission Hill, which he helped to design and fabricate. With the objective of creating a sleek design with aesthetic appeal that would encourage biking among local youth, Akeredolu designed a rack that would go on to be unveiled by former Mayor Menino—a moment he looks back on with pride. “It was amazing. I never had those life experiences before,” he shares appreciatively, expressing his gratitude for not only the projects themselves, but the opportunities that came with them.
Bike rack designed by the AFH 3D Studio.
Akeredolu’s experience, however, was not exclusively client projects. During his time at AFH, he also used the skills he learned to create his own pieces, which would then either be sold or auctioned off. When he had spare time, he enjoyed creating tables with herringbone-style woven patterns, or lighter cast pieces that could be hung on walls as decoration. Recalling another proud moment, Akeredolu reflects on the time one of his pieces was put up for a Boston public radio auction.
“To be involved in it, not only being able to produce a design, but being involved in the auction, and there while people are actually saying they want to buy that design, that they like the design…it’s really cool to be a part of.”
Woven table created by Akeredolu using recycled materials during his time at AFH.
Akeredolu’s time at AFH left him with technical knowledge few teenagers can lay claim to before they graduate high school. “I often find myself resorting back to those skills I learned at AFH,” he explains, referencing at-home projects and the help he lends to friends. Working in the 3D Design Studio, Akeredolu spent a lot of time with computers—using different software, rendering, and troubleshooting. Describing AFH as “the eye opener,” his experience with the organization exposed him to a side of the technological world that he had never encountered before—and that he loved.
“I learned a lot within the four years [at AFH] — working on the different projects, and I was able to utilize those skills to help me in many different ways in my life.”
Akeredolu as a teen at AFH.
Akeredolu’s path between his high school graduation and his current career was not a linear one. Though AFH had ignited his love for working with computers and problem solving, he still struggled to find his niche in the professional world.
After attending community college for a short period, Akeredolu dropped out and began working a variety of jobs. Bouncing between retail, car dealerships, customer service, banking, and even the music industry, he was constantly on the hunt for work that satisfied him the way it did during his teen years at AFH.
Table Akeredolu helped design at the 2011 Architectural Digest Home Design Show.
Eventually, he decided to return to school, attending Southern New Hampshire University and receiving a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology in February of 2023. Since then, Akeredolu has kept busy. Currently working as a tech professional for JetBlue airlines and an analyst for the state of Massachusetts, he is simultaneously pursuing his Masters in Information Technology from UMass Lowell. Though happy to be working jobs that push him to think critically and use the skills he has developed over the years, he has his sights set on reintegrating his passion for design into his professional life. His work with JetBlue and the state ultimately funds this passionate pursuit. Akeredolu has been working on creating his own company, a clothing line that he hopes to launch in the next year.
Though it has taken some soul searching for him to reach the point he is at now, Akeredolu’s genuine interest in technology and design seems to be guiding him toward a bright future where he can devote his full attention to his passions. While it has been over ten years since he was a teen at AFH, he speaks about the organization’s influence on his life as though it were yesterday. Providing him with a place to go where he felt welcome, appreciated, and trusted in his abilities, AFH was, in his words, “a home.” While Akeredolu is now exploring his skills and interests independently as an adult, his appreciation for AFH and the support it provided him as a teen persists.