Peter Kazickas ’15 in one of his shipping-container classrooms.

It’s more than 7,500 miles from his hometown of Amagansett, Long Island, to Zimbabwe in southeastern Africa, but it’s not an uncommon trip for Peter Kazickas ’15. 

Since 2018, Kazickas has traveled to and fro, nurturing his mission of providing an educational opportunity to young Zimbabweans with his nonprofit agency — Uncommon. Its goal is to build technology hubs in low-income communities in developing nations to empower young adults and children to escape poverty.

“Education is a means to combat the structural issues that plague society and to help empower communities to lift themselves from poverty,” Kazickas noted. “It’s been a rewarding, fun, and challenging journey to be in this part of the world, to be inspired by it. It’s become a life pursuit.”

Through boot camps run out of recycled shipping containers, older students learn tech skills for work opportunities. Kazickas currently has a team of 35 mostly former students who pay it forward in the capital city of Harare. “We offer free technology classes for unemployed young adults. They join us for 12 months; we teach them in-demand tech and professional work skills,” Kazickas said. “In exchange, they volunteer to teach after-school coding to children.” 

He plans to expand the program to Bulawayo, the country’s second most populated city.

He said that Uncommon helps its students earn annual incomes far higher than the average in Zimbabwe. “These are communities where public schooling isn’t free, and many youths and young adults are left out of formal education for an inability to pay the requisite fees. We offer an opportunity to learn for free and be put on a track that leads to tech employment,” he said. 

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Kazickas, who majored in world politics at Hamilton, went on to Silicon Valley for the Founder Institute’s Accelerator Program to hone tech and entrepreneurial start-up skills. He was inspired to work in Zimbabwe after volunteering there during summers with a youth basketball program. During his senior year he brought this model to Lithuania, his family’s homeland, and the program there broadened into teaching robotics. That got him thinking about what he could bring to Zimbabwe, one of the poorest countries in the world. 

“I thought about it on the plane ride home,” Kazickas said. Once back, he started to make calls. That’s how Uncommon was born, founded with friends and initially funded by Hamilton alumni, among others. The College community now makes up a majority of Uncommon’s monthly individual donors.

Kazickas set up a program with Hamilton alums who work at Google, Amazon, and Pinterest to mentor students in Zimbabwe remotely from New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. “We’ve come a long way since we started with 20 laptops under a tree giving free lessons,” he said. 

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