Dear Beloved Community,
On behalf of the Hack the Hood Board of Directors, we are pleased to announce the appointment of Michel Gelobter as Interim Executive Director, following the departure of Co-founder & CEO Susan Mernit - who will continue to serve the organization as a board member.
A national leader in the environmental justice movement with extensive experience leading software startups as well as organizational change, Michel has deep experience in non-profit, social justice leadership as well as tech and clean energy entrepreneurship. He has worked most of his life in and with communities of color and in roles leading diverse teams, working with young people as emerging professionals, and overseeing finance, fundraising, and programs in mission-driven organizations. His proven leadership skills and alignment with Hack the Hood’s mission and vision make him a natural fit for this role.
We are excited that Michel has agreed to serve in this capacity as we continue implementing our transition plan to find a permanent executive director. Hack the Hood is committed more than ever to building upon our recent successes and working to achieve empowerment for our youth and small businesses in the community. Thank you for your continued support as we move on to a great new chapter for Hack the Hood.
Gabriel Castillo, Luther Jackson, Patty Mitchell and Kamal Shah
Executive Committee of Hack the Hood Board of Directors
Hack the Hood is turning five this year, and to celebrate this milestone we are highlighting the young people who have brought their skills and passions to our program. We'll be profiling a different young leader each month, with Shreejal being our July feature
1. What made you decide to join Hack the Hood (HtH)? When did you start with HtH?
I’d been looking for a tech program for quite a while. My father wanted to pursue an education in a tech-related field but due to the lack of educational resources in Nepal, he was unable to do so. Therefore, tech has always interested me. I was super excited when my dad got his first cell phone, everyone at home started calling me “Simu” (after the SIM card).
Unfortunately, living in Richmond, we don’t really have a lot of access to programs that teach us about tech. And the ones that are available cost a great deal of money. So I did a couple of google searches and landed at Hack the Hood….loved the website and that’s what convinced me to apply.
Rather than signing up for Bootcamp, I decided to join one of their Membership programs in October of last year, Tech Prep Coding – which gives students opportunities to learn front-end website development and network with many tech companies. I remember finishing school around 4:00pm and having to commute 16 miles using public transportation. My 1 hour 20 minute commute was completely worth it though - I had access to so many resources at such an young age - from MacBook Airs to personalized tech mentorship. It was 9 weeks of awesomeness!
2. What did you learn, that was unexpected? Was there anything that surprised you about the program?
There are many valuable concepts that I learned from Tech Prep but the most valuable one was “how to effectively solve a problem?” I realized that Computer Science is logic more than it is anything else. Essentially, telling a computer what to do is like talking to a kid - you have to start at a basic level and build up from there. When I was taking Calculus last semester and struggling with some of the concepts, I purposely taught myself like a computer, with logic, and realized that this is a more effective way to understand the material. Similarly, in real life, if I have to choose between Decision X and Decision Y, I draw potential implications of both the choices to make the most feasible decision there is. When writing algorithms one develops more of the “how to solve the problem” approach more than anything else. There were so many transferable skills I could apply from the Tech Prep class to real life!
I also developed practical intelligence, something Malcolm Gladwell repeatedly discusses in his book “The Outliers.” With communication being a major factor to practical intelligence, through Hack the Hood, I am networking with people all across Silicon Valley whether it’s by attending various conferences or even communicating with guest speakers from large tech corporations. I have realized the impacts that communication can have on our everyday lives and through it I’ve developed my practical intelligence.
3. What are your favorite foods?
I love Nepali and Indian food. Absolutely love momos, samosas, and daal-bhaat-tarkari. My favorite place to eat momos is Momolicious and I love my samosas from Hamro Aangan. But my mom makes the best dish - daal-bhaat-tarkari!
4. What do you do for fun?
Two of my favorite things fun things to do is biking and playing chess. I got into chess, early, in 5th grade and five years later, I’m still playing. I’ve even competed in various tournaments and I have won four awards - all first and second place! I’m involved in the Chess Club at my school, I help my peers learn how to play chess. There is so much strategy behind the game and it exercises your brain a lot.
I also love biking! I got into an accident earlier this week and the tires came off and I haven’t been able to fix my bike because I’ve been busy visiting colleges. Accident aside, I still love biking and go on biking trips through Trip for Kids every other week to places like China Camp and Point Pinole.
5. What’s your favorite TV show?
I don’t really have a favorite TV show but my favorite movie, without a doubt, is “The Wolf of Wall Street,” because the film covers the story of success and the downfall of Jordan Belfort’s brokerage firm really well. Although, I don’t support their recreational activities or embezzling, I simply enjoyed watching it on the big screen because Jordan Belfort is a funny character and I am fascinated by how he and his team started Stratton Oakmont.
After watching it, I realized how confidence and humor are critical to running a successful business. And of course doing business legally is critical to success too!
6. What are three places you enjoy visiting in the Bay Area and beyond?
Personally, I love visiting San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Pokhara.
Right around the Microsoft office on Market Street. I notice all of people wear business casual clothing - especially if there is a conference going on at the Moscone Center. I appreciate the professional vibe it creates and the sense of rush. This is exactly the kind of environment I want to work in!
Mountain View is another favorite because of all the major tech companies that have offices there - LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft! It’s where the money comes in and technological breakthroughs occur!
I love visiting Pokhara in Nepal! I have gone there several times - my first visit was with my uncle. It presents a beautiful view of the mountains and consists of great landscape. I’m not 18 yet, but once I am,I want to go skydiving and rafting over there!
7. Who are your top music artists?
Drake and Eminem! Drake is taking over! His dance moves are hilarious to watch and he created the term “YOLO.” Though I didn’t like his recent album, “Scorpion.” I love listening to Eminem’s music because he discusses various social issues in our communities and shares his story - Nowhere Fast, River, and Walk on Water. His fans criticized his recent album, “Revival,” but I found the album to be rather motivating.
8. Who do you follow on insta?
I really like to follow my friends, but I also like to follow entrepreneurs like Elon Musk (@elonmusk), Bill Gates (@thisisbillgates), and Richard Branson (@richardbranson). I also follow community-oriented groups, which focus on opportunities for people of color: Hack the Hood (@hackthehood), David E. Glover Center (@glovercenter), and the Ryse Center (@ryseyouthenter).
9. Where’d you grow up? What do you like about Richmond?
I was born in Nepal, but immigrated in late 2009 (I was 7). When we relocated, we moved to Richmond. I like that there’s so much diversity here…people that look different, speak different, and think different. I’m concurrently enrolled at Contra College College (CCC) through my high school and I notice so much diversity! Being on the CCC Speech Team, I have been able to travel to various colleges to present about different ongoing issues in or communities and noticed that CCC holds much more diversity, as compared to many of the colleges we have visited.
10. What’s something you’d like to see change in Richmond? What do you want your contribution to that change to be?
There’s not a lot of organizations that are bridging tech and equity in Richmond. Whereas, in Oakland, there are so many organizations working towards this like Gameheads and Youth Impact Hub.
I’ve been working towards changing this in my own community. Last semester I organized an Hour of Code for 45 students, which is a global movement where we host a coding workshop for an hour. I want to organize more coding workshops…my goal is to organize at least 3 coding workshops this semester in local schools that generally cater to underrepresented communities. In these coding workshops I’d want to teach Scratch to middle school students and to high school students would want to teach a curriculum similar to Hack the Hoods.
11. What do you appreciate about today’s technology?
How we’re able to communicate so effectively. When I was 5, in Nepal, I remember when my Dad got a cellphone. I found it so fascinating how a simple thing like a SIM card made it possible to connect with people over voice. I loved the SIM card so much, my family nicknamed me Simu, after a SIM card :). Connectivity and communication has brought the human civilization very far!
12. What type of technology do you wish you had, but hasn’t been invented yet?
Recently, scientists came out with this new technology that captures 1 ton a day of CO2 from the atmosphere and turns it into fuel…as with all new technology, this tool is incredibly expensive. I’d want to see something more efficient and affordable be used…we have to protect our environment.
13. What would be your dream job? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Twelve years down the road I see myself as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I want to go to Stanford to study CompSci and Business for my Bachelor’s. Then I want to become a Software Engineer to get that real-life experience (which is how I learn best). I haven’t made up my mind in terms of wanting to pursue an MBA or not, but I feel what’s more important than anything is getting real-life experience. I’d want to be CEO of a company, like Microsoft. But there is so much knowledge out there and I know very little.
Photography by Christine Cueto.
Hack the Hood Blog
News items and musings on tech inclusion, youth development, buying local and more.