Six years ago, I was tapped by a close colleague to join a small 3 person team to support the summer pilot of a new technology program for youth called Hack the Hood. Today, Hack the Hood has 16 staffers and has served over 600 youth and small businesses.
In my role as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, I am proud to have led the organization to scale in over 6 cities and served as the lead architect of our programs and curriculum. I have also led the training of over 20 educators who deliver our programs across the Bay Area. In my entire career as a non-profit professional spanning more than two decades, I have never worked for an organization that has grown so fast and touched so many lives in such a short span of time. My experience at Hack the Hood has grown me as a leader and entrepreneur and taught me valuable lessons of speaking my truth, walking in my power and trusting my gut. As I step deeper into 2019, I am stepping down from my role as Chief Innovation Officer. I am grateful to take these lessons with me, and so proud of the team that will continue to shepherd and grow Hack the Hood full-time. The transition from Susan to Michel's leadership has gone well, and I'm excited to stay involved, albeit in a part-time capacity our Senior Fellow and Advisor. The future is bright, and I will always support the Hack the Hood community as it continues to grow, thrive, and change lives.
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 Alicia being our February feature.
1. What made you decide to join Hack the Hood (HtH)? When did you start with HtH?
I joined the Summer 2017 bootcamp. I was a junior at that time in Holy Names University, and I wanted to advance the skills that I already had in multimedia. I worked at the school library and one of the research librarian’s partner actually works at Hack the Hood. So that’s how I found out about the program. I was interested since I was already in the Oakland area for the summer.
2. What did you learn that was unexpected? Was there anything that surprised you about the program?
What really stood out to me was learning about personal branding. I hear how artists would have their personal brands, but I wasn’t sure how to create that for myself. I’m so thankful to have learned that skill at Hack the Hood, because I am able to transfer that as a multimedia artist.
3. What has your journey post- Hack the Hood looked like?
After Hack the Hood, I continued on with school and still worked at my university library. As a part of my political science minor, I did an internship with a nonprofit in East Oakland called ANV Youth Urban Farm Project. I was their graphic design and marketing intern for about 4-5 months, and worked on their social media graphics, flyers, and website banners for their online promotions. I even committed to some freelance work as well. I just graduated from Holy Names in December 2018, and I am currently applying for marketing and design roles.
4. What do you do for fun?
I love to hang out with my 3 dogs - whether it’s at home, taking a walk, or going to dog parks. If I’m not with my dogs, I with my family. We’d spend a lot of time in San Francisco, since that’s where most of our relatives live, and we’ll just find an event that’s going on and hang out.
5. What are your favorite foods?
Mexican, Filipino, and sushi
6. What are three places you enjoy visiting in the Bay Area and beyond?
I enjoy going to the Joaquin Miller Park and taking hikes. I also like taking drives to Grizzly Peak on a sunny day. It’s such a great feeling to have the sun hit me when I’m at the top. There’s also this sushi spot on Telegraph called Kansai that I love to go to.
7. Who are your top music artists?
I usually don’t get to listen to music on the daily, just on my free time. But I would say that my favorite artist is Ozuna. Next would be Jhene Aiko, J. Cole, and Miguel.
8. Who do you follow on insta?
I keep my instagram pretty small. I mostly follow family and friends. Anything beyond that would be trendy food spots, makeup and music artists.
9. Where’d you grow up? What do you like about the Bay Area?
Up until I was 4, I grew up in San Francisco. We shared a two-bedroom house with my dad’s brother and his family - which started to get really crampy. My siblings and I were starting to hit the age of going to school, and my parents wanted us to go to private school, but it was way too expensive. At that time, my mom’s brother was moving to Tracy and that they had good public schools out there; so we decided to move to Tracy and been here ever since.
What I like about the Bay Area is that fact that you can go anywhere and do anything. There’s so many hidden gems - may it be food, the beach, or for whatever type of adventure you want to go on. There’s just so much to do out in the Bay Area.
10. What’s something you’d like to see change in Oakland? What do you want your contribution to that change to be?
From my years studying in Oakland, I noticed that a lot of the buildings are really deteriorated and run down with graffiti all over it. I feel like that perpetuates any negative stereotypes of how people perceive Oakland. Oakland’s much more than that. I would love to see more buildings be restored and have murals or community art on it. It would bring more life and color to the environment.
I actually wrote a thesis on this for my senior paper. There's nonprofits in the Bay Area that go to inner cities and help rebuild the environment through murals and community art. They collaborate with residents and they make it a team building activity. You practically revive the community and even inspire the youth to lead a better path. I would definitely want to be a part of that.
11. What do you appreciate about today’s technology?
I appreciate how beneficial it’s become in the workforce. Not only are there systems created to make work more efficient, it’s easier to collaborate with people, no matter where you are in the world. I definitely appreciate the instant communication, rather than having to wait and delay progress.
12. What type of technology do you wish you had, but hasn’t been invented yet?
I wish there was another way to record all memories from the past or even visit lost loved ones. There are camcorders or other video cameras, but we don’t record every moment of our lives from our own perspective and thoughts. Most of the time, I rather just enjoy the experience without having to record. Mostly, it will definitely help me embrace my times with lost loved ones. Even having the opportunity to visit them once again will definitely heal many broken hearts.
13. What would be your dream job? What do you want to be when you grow up?
I would love to have a high position in design, like a creative director or a senior graphic designer. But I want it to be a situation where I can still create the designs, rather than just overseeing people. In general, I would love to be a multimedia artist, because I can wear many hats, create various types of projects, and collaborate with other creatives.
Photography by Christine Cueto.
Hack the Hood Blog
News items and musings on tech inclusion, youth development, buying local and more.