SACRAMENTO, Calif — Imagine making more money than you know what to do with then leaving it all behind to give back to the place you grew up. That's exactly what Nicholas Haystings did.

Haystings, a Sacramento State University graduate, was an environmental engineer by trade, but these days the south Sacramento native is, what he likes to call, a "social engineer."

"My job was to design waste water treatment systems, renewable energy systems." Haystings told ABC10. He explained that he felt like he had a higher calling and left it all behind. "It's more social engineering these days ...  applying a lot of the principals that I learned into engineering a better community."

Haystings left it all behind to create SquareRoot Academy, a nonprofit focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and math to kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.


Haystings grew up in south Sacramento's Meadowview, the same neighborhood Stephon Clark, the unarmed 22-year-old who was killed by Sacramento police in 2018, grew up.

Despite the area's bad reputation, Haystings said he sees one of the neighborhood's problems as a "lack of opportunity that leads us into other pathways of life every now and then."

And that's part of the reason Haystings created the nonprofit. He's teaching a group of students who grew up not too dissimilar from himself — with little to no resources or opportunity — and he's making sure they have other opportunities in life.

"There's a lot of love, a lot of community, a lot of people just looking out for one another in ways that we knew how to," Haystings said.

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Keristen.


WATCH MORE: Square Root Academy helps immerse Sacramento kids in STEM education