Most people’s views of Hackathons are limited to posh venues where students from top Colleges and Universities come to participate for grand prizes. That’s what Shivani Mall, a student at UC Riverside, thought until she attended Los Angeles’ TXT Hackathon. She gave high school and middle school kids the opportunity to learn to code apps over the course of a two week hackathon in LA. She writes about her experience volunteering:
“This was a very humbling and eye opening experience.”
TXT hackathon was hosted in one of the darkest neighborhoods in LA. I felt very unsafe as my friends and I drove through the lanes in the dingy neighborhoods. However, to my shock and surprise, the participants, underprivileged high/middle school students, lived in these neighborhoods on bare minimum. Computers were a luxury for them.
“I was excited about this hackathon because the vision and goals of TXT exactly aligned with that of Coding FTW, an organization that is putting an end to human prostitution, child trafficking and exploitation by teaching girls to code.”
Just like CodingFTW, TXT aimed to expose these kids to software development and convey that with coding they could live the life of their dreams. There were many kids who needed encouragement to pursue their passion. Some did not have a passion. However, with motivation they were willing to get involved. At the same time, there were many kids who had a passion just like we do and wanted to build applications to solve problems; however, unlike us, they did not have a forum to showcase their talent. Just like CodingFTW , this hackathon gave them the platform to build their dreams. I was touched to hear the problems they were trying to solve. One group that I mentored wanted to build an app to get free rides to school and another one wanted to build a web-app to trade off new pair of shoes for money.
As a CodingFTW mentor, I was honored to teach these kids how to code and help them build applications to fight the problems they were facing in their daily lives like extortion, not having food to eat, clean water to drink, good clothes to wear and rides to school. All in all, I felt that we must use our resources to help these kids unleash their true potential, and motivate and encourage them, so that they can find and pursue their passion!