Hack the Hood believes in highlighting the young people who have brought their skills and passions to our program to inspire others. We're profiling a different young leader each month to share their journey through Hack the Hood and beyond, with Luke being our September feature.
1. What made you decide to join Hack the Hood (HtH)? When did you start with HtH?
I always wanted to be in tech. When I came to California almost 4 years ago, I spent a good bit of time searching for ways to go back to school for Computer Science. In my search I met one of Hack the Hood's current students. He invited me to come to an info session (mostly for the free food). When I came in I met bootcamp instructor, RC, and he talked to me about tech bootcamps and how Hack the Hood could help me with my goals. I immediately applied for the next bootcamp. I did however end up missing out on that one, but the very next year, 2017, I ended up going the Tech Prep Coding cohort that year.
2.What did you learn that was unexpected? Was there anything that surprised you about the program?
Most of what I learned was unexpected. I think the MOST unexpected thing was my love of Python, thanks to RC. I was really surprised by how supportive the staff, volunteers, and other students were. They really supported me with everything I wanted to learn, even things outside of the curriculum.
3. What has your journey post- Hack the Hood looked like?
After the first class I took at Hack the Hood, I attended General Assembly to amp up my skills a little more and between those two I interned for Google, Cruise, Youth Radio, and a few other places. Most recently, I used the knowledge I had to apply for an accelerated degree program at MakeSchool in San Francisco. I ended up testing out of their prereqs and got in right at the deadline. I've had to move my life over to SF from Oakland to be closer to the school. Classes start pretty early and as an under-resourced individual, I couldn't really afford to be taking Bart twice a day, every day for the next 2 years. I've actually started a GoFundMe campaign to help cover the costs of living after managing to pay off the tuition and dorm expenses. I'm managing my medication and food costs by freelancing web design and IT work after classes. But, I think the opportunities I'll get from finishing this degree will be worth it.
4. What do you do for fun?
Right now I've joined a D&D group with some other students at the school and they meet once a week. I used to play music for fun and I plan to get a violin when I actually have disposable income. I heard once that playing music is how some engineers think through tough or strange coding issues.
5. What are your favorite foods?
My favorite food is currently the Salad Ramen from Shiba in Oakland. I generally love all Ramen, but this one is seasonal and I think the wait really makes me appreciate it more.
6. What are three places you enjoy visiting in the Bay Area and beyond?
I love walking around Japan Town. It's a great place to do anything really, food, fun, friends, you name it. And maybe I'm lucky, but when I go it's never too crowded, so that's great.
The pier by Jack London is another place I love. When I first got settled, like actually settled, I lived right near the pier. I would spend weekend nights on the pier with friends looking out over the water or at Yoshi's.
Jack London is also home to my 3rd favorite place, aptly named Oakland's Secret. One night, a friend stumbled through the doors and discovered great music and fantastic people. I love local bands and a good surprise and this place was definitely a pleasant surprise. A beautiful hidden venue with a house party feeling. Everything feels familiar and new at the same time when you're in there.
7. Who are your top music artists?
George Watsky, an Oakland native, is my top guy right now. His lyrics are poignant, political, and often pretty funny. And the trappy vibes in "Welcome to the Family" always lift my mood.
Lizzo is a given, and I don't think that needs explaining. At this point you, stan Lizzo or you're irrelevant.
And my number three is Jeremy Jordan because that man’s voice is magic, and I could listen to every soundtrack he's ever been on, non-stop.
8. Who do you follow on insta?
I try my best on Instagram to only follow people I've physically met, that applies to celebrities as well.so not too many people but I do follow Shawn Wasabi and Monsune so there's a nice name-drop.
9. Where’d you grow up? What do you like about the Bay Area?
I grew up in and around New Roads, Louisiana. A tiny little town with some very southern sentiments. I miss the food so much. Haven't found good soul food since I left. But I love that the Bay has so much variety. I can essentially eat from any corner of the globe and not leave the city.
10. What’s something you’d like to see change in Oakland? What do you want your contribution to that change to be?
Honestly, I’d really like it if all the money that’s being poured into developing offices for companies and luxury condos and such go to housing programs and rehabilitation for the homeless and addicted people that are constantly being shuffled around. There’s not enough affordable housing and the cities essentially falling apart. In the past few years I’ve literally watched programs and buildings crumble while half-empty apartments keep popping up next to closing businesses and crumbling streets.
My contribution to that change will be, or rather currently is, me actively helping the community. I volunteer at shelters whenever I can because as a formerly homeless youth, I know how understaffed those places can be. I help youth with their resumes and connect them to recruiters. I’m always actively advocating for hiring within the community, or giving chances to people who haven’t been afforded the same opportunities as others. I attend city council when discussions about letting big companies move in occur. I’m only one person but when I see a chance to help this community, I take it. I don’t WANT my contribution to be anything, because I know what my contributions are. I’ll continue encouraging people to buy local, invest in their community, and, as much as I can, I try to be a voice at these big companies that speaks out for the people that get pushed aside during corporate expansions.
11. What do you appreciate about today’s technology?
I appreciate the convenience and integration. Your phone can connect to so many things it’s crazy and I love it. People always talk about how we’re always on our phones, but I don’t see the problem there. I have the whole of human knowledge and experience in my hand, next to a way to contact everyone I’ve ever met.
12. What type of technology do you wish you had, but hasn’t been invented yet?
Full-Dive Virtual and Alternate reality tech is something I’m EXTREMELY interested in. To be fair we’re not even that far off. We’ve already developed ways to get input into a computer from the electrical signals we produce and we’ve gotten really close with some VR software. I mostly want it for the escapist fantasy of falling into another world, but it would be an amazing breakthrough for the medical field and many others as well. Could you imagine someone suffering from various degrees of paralysis getting to walk again, or a doctor and patient is able to fully dive into and deal with a patient's mental issues in a visual, fully represented space. Movies would change, the way we empathize with the experiences of others would come as close as it could to absolute empathy. The possibilities of Full-Dive technology are fascinating and endless!
13. What would be your dream job? What do you want to be when you grow up?
I don’t think I have a way to pin that down. I’ve already gotten a few chances to do every “dream job” I’ve ever had. My dreams are always changing and so are the types of jobs that are available. I know that my dream job will always include tech in some way, and right now the closest I could come to picking a dream job would be as a researcher working on recreating and innovating a working mechanical replica of a human brain - thought processes and all. It sounds like science fiction, but all in all, humans are just supercomputers with mysterious and confusing function parameters.
Photography by Christine Cueto.
Hack the Hood Blog
News items and musings on tech inclusion, youth development, buying local and more.