Yesterday I had the privilege of talking to Jason Gibson, the founder of Hood Code. Jason grew up in Queens in the New York City Public Housing buildings (NYCHA). Like many of his peers, he found himself making plenty of cash, as he said, “working business on the streets”. Eventually, he found himself arrested and sentenced to 5 years in jail.
He served 35 months and made the best of his time figuring out his life, himself, and how to never return. He told me that jail is jail, nobody helps you there, you are just locked up. Painful but true. He started reading about the titans of today and how their access to technology at a young age was key. He taught himself to code, found a non-profit organization to give guidance when he got out.
His guiding light was to return to the NYCHA community and give kids (8-14) access to a computer and learn how to code through Scratch. Most parents have no access, and no idea about writing code, and neither do the kids. He hopes that this opportunity of learning to code will empower the youth of his community to subvert the school to prison pipeline to the school to career.
Jason works as a developer 50 hours or more a week with a pro-bono law office acting as essentially an agent to help formerly incarcerated people stay out of jail. Jason wants to see Hood Code (great name btw) get into every NYCHA building (they all have community centers) in afterschool and summer programs right next to the basketball and art classes run. He is spot-on; there should be a coding class too. The big picture is to help the kids who can get into college do so, and the ones that can’t help them secure developer jobs.
Jason is amazing, inspiring, and making a serious impact in his community. He even texts the parents of the kids he teaches now every night to make sure they show up the next day. He got his 5013C and is now a full-fledged non-profit organization. Being able to give him the full amount he needs right now at the end of our call made my summer. Gotham Gives will connect him to the organizations we have been supporting for years through our family foundation with hopes to fulfill his dreams.
Just like any industry, disrupting from the outside is the key. He grew up in NYCHA, he understands the reality of his community, and there is no doubt he will change many kids’ lives.
If you are inspired, please give. Every dollar truly counts. He is making lemonade every day.