Hack the Hood Grads Have Much to Offer Tech World



High school senior Jayshaun Thomas can teach just about anyone how to create a website.


“It’s easy to teach,” he said at the Hack the Hood summer boot camp graduation on Aug. 12 at Impact Hub in Oakland.


Thomas was one of 46 graduates that completed the six-week boot camp, where youth learned coding, web design, and gained skills to enter the tech industry.


Since 2013, Hack the Hood has trained low-income young people of color how to design websites for small businesses in their community. Last Wednesday, the largest group of students graduated from the program.


The training not only taught students impressive skills, but also boosted their confidence.


“I’m learning to better communicate with people,” said student Raeshonna Smith.


“The thing that stuck with me was the people here; I could just act myself,” said Thomas, who aspires to be a clothing and web designer. “I like doing websites, and going through and actually coming up with my own type of creations. I want people to see what I can create.”


Jayla Johnson created a website for local nonprofit, Scientific Adventures for Girls using Weebly, which features a slideshow of young girls experimenting in the company’s STEM programs on the site’s home page.


Johnson says she was excited to see the results of her hard work. Hack the Hood showed me how big technology is to everyday life, Johnson said.


And the world is ready for what these young tech innovators will create next.


Stewart Butterfield, CEO and founder of Slack – a messaging app – and Erica Baker, release engineer with Slack, shared valuable advice with students during the graduation ceremony.


“There are issues unique to your community that haven’t been addressed yet…so make or do stuff that you want and people will come to you,” said Butterfield.


Engineer DeVaris Brown encouraged students to “be an example of excellence.”


“Be proud of your diversity,” said Brown, who has spoken around the world and believes technology should be accessible to everyone. “Be an example for your peers in your community.”


One student, Norma Soto, also an immigrant, courageously shared her story of overcoming her own personal obstacles.


Norma said her Hack the Hood instructor, Damon Packwood, helped her look beyond the barriers against her and explore her opportunities. “Who knows, I could be an expert at coding,” she said.


Hack the Hood co-founders Susan Mernit and Zakiya Harris look forward to expanding the program this fall with a pilot project at MetWest High School.


For more information, visit www.hackthehood.org.


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