President’s Blog – Sept. 2015

The Birth of a Hackathon

Luis AAs elected officials we go to meetings. Lots of meetings. All of them are important but, unfortunately, not all of them are as productive as they can and should be. I’ve learned over the years the most productive gatherings are those that generate action – some kind of forward movement that creates results.

With that as a measure our Latino Policy Forum last June at Cal State LA was a resounding success. Not only did we organize very productive panels but our event has fostered an exciting project in the Southeast Cities that we hope to replicate in other parts of the region.

Thanks to the leadership of Cudahy Mayor Cristian Markovich, South Gate Mayor Jorge Morales and South Gate City Council Member Belen Bernal, the Southern California Latino Policy Center is organizing the first-ever “hackathon” in the Southeast Cities.

hackathonThe weekend event, called “wehack: Southeast Cities,” is scheduled for November 13-15 and hosted by our friends at East LA College. It will feature teams of programmers and computer coders, all competing for prizes to create the most effective apps and software aimed at solving problems for Southeast Cities residents. “Hackers” will tackle issues such as helping working parents find affordable child care, creating a rideshare app for residents who have to drive long distances to get to work every day, and maybe even an app helping health conscious residents find healthy food choices (where are the veggie taco trucks in Huntington Park?)

And while the event should be fun for all those “hackers” and hopefully productive for residents of the Southeast, there are more serious issues we hope to tackle with this hackathon.

AVV_5077As we all learned during our “21st Century Cities & Schools” policy forum, Latinos are very enthusiastic users of technology, but we are woefully under-represented in the tech workforce. We’re missing out on thousands of high-paying technology jobs because too many of our young people aren’t getting the training and education they need for those jobs. Through this event we hope to generate the conversations and action we need to address this – as well as highlight the opportunities that schools like ELAC are already offering to prepare students for tech careers.

Not a bad result for just a simple Saturday morning meeting last summer.

Hon. Luis Ayala is the Board President of the Southern California Latino Policy Center and the Mayor of Alhambra.