Like many young people his age, Naseed Gifted ’01 was infatuated with comic books; however, they rarely portrayed heroes that resembled him. His desire to infuse more diversity in the world of comic books sparked the creation of P.B. Soldier, a science fiction graphic novel series that has as its hero an African-American man named Nat Cummings, a skilled computer hacker who uses his abilities to help pay for college tuition until his activities are discovered and he becomes listed as an international terror threat. Cummings becomes a double-agent who attempts to bring down a system from the inside without letting those he cares about fall into harm’s way.
A two-time Glyph Comic Awards and Urban Action Showcase nominee, Gifted heads the independent comic book publisher PBS Media, which in August 2016 launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter to raise $8,500 for the production of the next comic book in its series that helps teach the STEM disciplines to young people. The goal of the campaign was to raise money for the production of Episode 3.0, the sixth installment of a 13-book arc. Funds will go toward the actual production of the book, including printing and distribution, and payment to line artist and colorist Abel Garcia. In addition, some of the proceeds will be donated to the Central High School Pre-Engineering Academy in Newark—a program that Gifted has taught and led for the past 13 years.
From Engineer to Teacher
At NJIT, Gifted’s main focus was obtaining a degree in electrical engineering—a passion since the 10th grade after being exposed to robotics through the U.S. First Competition. The experience afforded several opportunities: His team won the Chairman’s Award and had the opportunity to meet then-President Bill Clinton at the White House. He appeared on 20/20 and the USA Network’s “In a Minute” commercial and the team was featured in the Star-Ledger. He also worked alongside a group of engineers from Bell Labs in Whippany. All of this piqued his interest and—most importantly—several of the engineers looked like him.
“This furthered my passion to pursue engineering as a career path and provided me with the confidence that I can do it,” Gifted said. “The entrepreneur and writer in me initiated at NJIT. I started my first business, PBS Unlimited, with several other NJIT students, and wrote poetry as well as performed at poetry slams. These experiences helped later provide the tools to build another company, PBS Media, and become a writer of the comic book series P.B. Soldier.”
Gifted’s involvement in the community and membership in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) aided in his transition from engineer to teacher. The training he received at NJIT not only allowed him the ability to change careers, but gave him what he calls the “growth mindset.”
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