Hack the Hood believes in highlighting the young people who have brought their skills and passions to our program to inspire others. We'll be profiling a different young leader each month to share their journey through Hack the Hood and beyond, with Nick being our January feature.
1. What made you decide to join Hack the Hood (HtH)? When did you start with HtH?
I saw a flyer about Hack the Hood at school, and I wanted to be a software engineer at that time. I love coding, and that part appealed to me. And so I signed up for the Summer 2016 Bootcamp. There I was able to work with Michael Davidson to develop a website for his restaurant, GrilledCheeseGuy.
3. What has your journey post- Hack the Hood looked like?
Well, my journey post-Hack the Hood that was really interesting because of the Posse Scholarship. Right after the bootcamp was my first semester of senior year, where I started thinking about college applications. I’d visit the office a couple times, so I’d see Max (former bootcamp instructor) and Ricardo (program director) and a few others. They would give me advice about colleges and told me to reach out to them if I needed help. Not too long after, I got an email from Posse saying that I was getting nominated for a scholarship. At first my mom and I thought it was a scam because they were asking for my social security number and everything. Then I did some research, realized it was legit, and found out that Hack the Hood nominated me.
After three intense interviewing stages with Posse, I was accepted in the scholarship program. Now, I’m studying mechanical engineering in Boston University. Even though I’m not in computer science, as initially planned, I'm taking up engineering because I love technology and innovation. I'm also part of a biomedical lab, and I’m looking into doing a software engineering internship. It’s pretty much me experimenting with interdisciplinary fields as I figure out what I want to do after college. Ideally, I’d love to get into the business side of engineering and tech.
4. What do you do for fun?
Well, I haven’t been doing too much last semester because I’ve been grinding, trying to keep my grades up. But in general, archery is something I got into last summer. I’m really passionate about it, even brought my bow out to Boston. Unfortunately I haven’t found a range near me. I also love reading, basketball, and drawing. Music is a big part of my life. I was in choir for nine years. I play the piano, flute, alto saxophone, and I’ve dabbled a bit on the guitar. I absolutely love playing outside, taking walks, and it may sound kind of childish, but I love playing on playgrounds.
.5. What are your favorite foods?
Dimsum. I’m actually about to pick up some after this interview. Burritos and tacos are definitely a close second. I also love Persian food. My girlfriend is Persian and she got me addicted to it.
6. What are three places you enjoy visiting in the Bay Area and beyond?
I love Tacos mi Rancho. You can grab your food and just walk around Lake Merritt. Hands down, Grizzly Peak has got to be my favorite spot, more specifically UC Berkeley, where the science labs are at. It has the most beautiful view of the Bay. Other than that, I'd have to say Lake Shore because that's where my friends and I always hang out. There’s a Colonial Donuts we always go to.
7. Who are your top music artists?
Haiti Babii is one of them and next one would be Betcha Gang. Louis Armstrong is someone I’ve been listening to in the past few months. I’ve also been getting into a lot of Afro-music, so I’m a big fan of Mr. Eazi.
8. Who do you follow on insta?
I don't really use social media much, but one person that I really like to look at is Thizzler. He produces music for a lot of local artists.
9. Where’d you grow up? What do you like about the Bay Area?
I always find this a hard question to answer, because my mom is from the Hills and my dad lived around Coolidge. I grew up in both areas, but my friends and I are always hanging out at Lake Shore, East Oakland, and Berkeley. So I never really claimed one area as home. I would just say I grew up in Oakland.
I have so much love for the Bay Area, specifically East Bay. I'd find it very unique. After I moved to Boston for college, I was able to experience other cities, meet people from other parts of the country, and realize how different it is. What’s so special about the Bay is the people - we have such a chill vibe and we’re really easy to connect with.
I also love how everything is in the Bay. Just think about it - we have a lake in the middle of the city, we have the ocean, we’ve got hills, views, nature, we have the hood, we have nice areas downtown, Silicon Valley, even San Francisco tourists. And we have such a diverse culture; whatever group you identify with, we have it. We've got everything. I didn’t notice that until I left. It's crazy. I’ve had so many debates as to why Oakland is the best, and I can go on and on about it. (The only downside is that it’s getting really expensive.)
10. What’s something you’d like to see change in Oakland? What do you want your contribution to that change to be?
The (lack of) housing is definitely a big issue in the Bay Area. I hope to see a change in the homeless population, where the city is doing more to provide them opportunities and support. Gentrification is something that I would like to see change. Residents of Oakland should not have to move out for people who are not from Oakland. I'm not saying that others aren’t welcomed but people should not be kicked out of their homes. With that, something I would like to see maintained is the Oakland culture. I’ll walk around downtown, see new condos and it feels weird. It doesn't feel like Oakland; it looks different. The change isn't always bad, but when you're kicking out a lot of the Oakland residents, then it becomes a problem.
After college, I want to become an entrepreneur, start a tech company, and come back to Oakland and help the homeless, figure out how to provide housing for them, and help locals maintain their residency. I don’t exactly know how it will be done, but I just want to be able to contribute to the Oakland people.
11. What do you appreciate about today’s technology?
Well, first I’d like to share what I don’t appreciate. I'm a big anti-social media person. I didn't grow up with a smartphone. I got my first phone at 16, and it was a flip phone; I got my first smartphone when I was 18, after high school. So I grew up without technology, and I see all these people addicted to their phones. I don’t appreciate how it takes people away from reality. People get so dramatic and judgemental, and I feel like it tends to take over people's lives. Now I’m aware there can be positive outcomes from social media, but I think it also has a really detrimental effect. I’ve seen my siblings glued to their screens, and I just don’t appreciate the addiction.
What I do appreciate about technology is the accessibility to information and music. I also love how technology can take you far; it’s improved cars, planes, and other types of transportation to take you around the world.
12. What type of technology do you wish you had, but hasn’t been invented yet?
Teleportation. Studying in Boston and having everyone that I love in Oakland, makes me wish that teleportation existed. It would make life much easier.
Another type of technology I’d like to see is an accessible clean water system. Hopefully in the future, everyone around the world gets access to clean water.
13. What would be your dream job? What do you want to be when you grow up?
I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur that will change the world - that’s been my idea since I was little. I dream of founding a device-based tech company, where our product impacts everyone and improves their living conditions. After a while, I’m hoping to be a philanthropist and give back to the world.
Photography by Christine Cueto.
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