New app aims to help bring community to underrepresented students

Jessica Hallman
October 30, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State students now have an easier way to connect with campus organizations that match their backgrounds and interests, thanks to an app created by a team of Penn State students.

Vybrnt was launched in early October to help students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, to build community on campus. Founder Joel Sakyi, who graduated in May with a degree in information sciences and technology, said that the tool aims to be a new gateway for students to find resources, build community and seize the opportunities that Penn State has to offer — all in a centralized place.

“We designed this platform to enable students, organizations and faculty members to share and keep up with important events, programs and support systems that can help benefit one another, while also giving them the space to engage with others in their community,” he said.

Vybrnt LLC was one of seven student ideas selected out of 50 from all Penn State campuses to participate in the Summer Founders program this year. A signature program of Invent Penn State, Summer Founders awards student teams $15,000 and provides coworking space, mentorship and access to industry expertise to help accelerate their startups. The award enables students to focus on their startups full-time over the summer rather than having to work a job.

It was through that program that Vybrnt continued to grow, and the startup is now operated by a team of seven Penn State students and alumni. In addition to Sakyi, team members include Amalendu Bokli, sophomore in computer science, and development lead; Sydney Boyd, senior in information sciences and technology, and UI/UX designer; Bubune Owusu, junior in electrical engineering, and customer discovery lead; Christian Medford, junior in business psychology, and business lead; Fasa David, senior in community, environment and development, and marketing lead; and Olive Hernandez, 2020 graduate in advertising and public relations, and public relations lead.

They are joined by interns Renee Kang, junior in information sciences and technology and economics, and project manager; Nathan Reilly, sophomore in data science, and artificial intelligence intern; Nick PourJalilvand, senior in computer science, and software development intern; Nick Hardwick, senior in computer science, and database analyst; and Joshua Lapitan, junior in cybersecurity analytics and operations, and cybersecurity intern.

Sakyi encourages all students to use the app, especially first-year students from underrepresented backgrounds who are looking to find their communities at a large university — many through a virtual environment.

“The opposition we face every day for the color of our skin, sexuality and nationality [means] that we always have a steeper hill to overcome,” he said “I wanted to create this app because I know the more connections we can make with each other, the easier it will be to climb.”

Vybrnt is available for download on iOS and Android.

This story is informational in nature and should not be considered an endorsement of any product or application.

Last Updated April 15, 2021