Hack the Hood, a non-profit organization, provides low-income youth of color with technical, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills. Founded in Oakland in 2013, the award-winning organization serves to equip students between the ages of 14-21 with in-demand technical skills yielding more competitive applicants, empowered leaders, and skilled business-minded individuals. Founders and educators involved in Hack the Hood endeavor to close the employment gap between African Americans and Latinos in the tech industry. At the time of writing this, only 2-3% of African Americans make up the tech workforce and Latinos, 2%. The mission of Hack the Hood is to train youth of color for well-paying high tech positions and tech start-ups with comprehensive programming education, entrepreneurship and business skills.
The 6-week program is a blend of work experience and educational experience. Students begin with an introduction to basic programming skills such as, HTML, CSS, and PHP. Topics of learning also include communication skills, minority entrepreneurship, and marketing. In the second week, student create websites for mock client before working with real clients, which is a core part of the program. Students are paired with local businesses who would like an online presence. Hack the Hood participants create a website for their client resulting in real time experience and a portfolio. The program is offered approximately four times per year.
Founded by three women, Hack the Hood represents the needs of both the local and global community, and the backgrounds of all three founders are apparent in the organization. Silicon Valley veteran Susan Mernit worked in curriculum development before serving in administrative and operation positions at AOL, Netscape, and Yahoo. Additionally, Mernit also brought her strong journalistic background to the organization. She co-founded Oakland-centric news source Oakland Local and Live Work Oakland, another news site focused on tech and business in Oakland and the East Bay. Mernit relocated from the Silicon Valley to Oakland, and after founding and involving herself in other technical endeavors helped to start Hack the Hood.
Susan Mernit's technical and business acumen is complemented by Zakiya Harris who in addition to an education background brings her experience in program development. Artist Zakiya Harris is passionate about teaching and social change strategy, which is evident in her other endeavor Impact Hub Oakland - co-working space, business incubator, and art gallery, where she is a co-founder. Harris and Mernit are joined by Mary Fuller who rounds out this dynamic trio of visionary women. Fuller's foundation in strategic development and business operations. These three individuals steer this socially conscious, non-profit organization.