By Mary Fuller, Hack the Hood co-founder and COO
Last week at graduation, I gave the crowd a little preview of what to expect from Hack the Hood starting this fall. There were a lot of exciting things to talk about, from launching a school pilot at MetWest High School to prepping for an advanced skills mobile app boot camp in partnership with UC Berkeley this spring (more on that later!). But I must admit, I was a little surprised that the announcement that seemed to get the most reaction from the crowd was the fact that we will be launching a Hack the Hood Bootcamp in Watsonville this fall in partnership with Digital NEST.
If you're not familiar, Watsonville is a small town of about 50,000 people in Santa Cruz County. It's known throughout California as a center of agriculture, and not necessarily a tech hub.
But our partner Digital NEST is working hard to change that. Founder and Executive Director Jacob Martinez has been working diligently for over 10 years to give tech career opportunities to low-income youth whose parents work the strawberry fields in and around Watsonville. Recently, his energy has been funneled towards creating an innovative youth coworking space where young people can get access to technology and training so that they can join the 21st century digital economy. And while the prospects for tech jobs look a lot different than they do in Oakland, there's growing demand for tech workers in Watsonville.
Agriculture doesn't happen the way it used to. Jacob notes there are fewer migrant workers than there used to be because of shifting agricultural practices that allow for a year-round harvest. It's not unusual now to see drones surveying the fields. And the drought calls out loudly for new tech-fueled solutions. The shift towards AgTech is no doubt bolstered by a change of the guard as old school agricultural families pass on their legacy to the next generation children who have grown up just over the hill from Silicon Valley. Maybe the new guard sees not only the opportunity to improve agricultural practices using tech, but also to improve the lives of the children of agricultural workers as well.
So does Hack the Hood look like when we take it to a farm town like Watsonville?
We are excited to find out. And we are thrilled to have such an excellent partner in Digital NEST.
Just as we did this summer with RYSE Youth Center in Richmond and The Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula in East Palo Alto, Hack the Hood is providing Digital NEST with support and resources so they can deliver their own version of Hack the Hood in their community. This process started in May when Digital NEST's program manager attended our train the trainer workshop. Over the next couple of months Hack the Hood staff will provide ongoing curriculum, training, technical assistance, evaluation, fundraising and promotional support to ensure that their program thrives. We are excited to see what Digital NEST adds to the Hack the Hood curriculum and model, and we anticipate learning as much from them as they learn from us.
We hope you see the value of offering Hack the Hood to rural communities, and that you will support this project with as much enthusiasm as you've supported our work in urban centers.
Please consider making a donation and help us spread the word.
Hack the Hood Blog
News items and musings on tech inclusion, youth development, buying local and more.