Community Spotlight April 2019: Dalton Craven

Hack Club is not only a network of high school coding clubs — it is an active community of high school students with different backgrounds, interests,  and experiences. We’ll be periodically featuring awesome club leaders  in our community who are making differences in their respective  communities with their clubs.

Dalton Craven is currently a senior and one of the leaders of Mason Hack Club in Ohio, and he has been leading his club for 2 and a half years. Not  only is Mason Hack Club one of the most active clubs in the Hack Club  community, but it is also the core of amazing programs and events such  as Hack Camp, CincyHacks, and the upcoming Hack Cincinnati.  As one of the leaders, Dalton is passionate about coding and has spent  the past few years sharing his passion with other students.

Join us in an interview with Dalton, and see what it’s really like to be a member of the leaders’ community of Hack Club.

Briefly introduce yourself!

Hi!  My name is Dalton Craven and I’m a senior at William Mason High School.  I am currently a director of Mason Hack Club, and I’ve been involved  with Hack Club for about three years now. Outside of coding, I like  doing community service — I volunteer weekly at the public library  assisting patrons with their technology questions. Outside of  technology, I love working on my 1963 Mercury Comet (that’s a big passion of mine — for a while it was what I used for my profile pictures) and reading!

Dalton and his 1963 Mercury Comet

“How did you get into coding?”

I  first started taking a programming class in my freshman year of high  school. At that time, I was enrolled in some business class, but I found  it kind of boring. Therefore, I decided to switch out to try computer  science. I ended up loving it, so that’s how I got involved with the  computer science curriculum at school.

Through  Hack Club, I’ve built a lot of websites, worked with the school’s IT  department, and completed internships with my local government, a  startup, and a large company — all stemming from when I first met Megan and joined Hack Club.

“Where do you see yourself in 10 years?”

I  know I’m going to do computer science, but I don’t know exactly what  specifically I want to do within computer science (because every college  has different specifics). Regarding post-grads, I thought about maybe  getting a masters, although I might work first, just to see what’s out  there.

I’ve  had 3 internships — I interned with my local government, with a medium  market research company, and I interned with a 5-person startup. And I  think I really like the small-team dynamic — when you are in a smaller team, it’s easier to see what you’re doing and the impacts of your work.

Back  when I was interning at the market research company, we started a  website, but we were never able to finish it within the duration of the  internship. Annie interned with me at both companies, and it just feels  like when we are in the start-up-ey vibe that we can see what we’re  doing with great clarity. So I would prefer working with a startup in  the future.

What makes Mason Hack Club so awesome?

“What bridges the gap between Hack Club or events and CS classes at Mason?”

First  of all, the computer science curriculum at Mason is great. However, 2  semesters of the curriculum is being taught in a programming language  from 1998 before you actually start doing any Java. This setup doesn’t  have much application for me. When Megan and Annie started Mason Hack  Club, that kicked it off. It was web development. It was fun. And you’re  making an impact while learning to code. Pretty much immediately I became fully involved in this type of program.

Hack Camp 2017, a summer program for younger students in the community to learn to code, organized by Mason Hack Club.

“Tell us a bit more about your meetings!”

We follow a continuous improvement plan for our meetings because every semester we try something and then  everyone quits — then we try something else. It’s fun though — every  year we start off with 60–70 members, and then it drops. We don’t do  mandatory meetings or take attendance during meetings.

My  club usually meets every Tuesday for an hour, and although we end at  around 3:15, some people leave after. We run our meeting all in one  classroom. In our old classroom in the past, there’re little clusters of  tables, so people would sit at those tables, and we do announcements,  followed by the workshop. A lot of times people don’t really listen to  the workshop (which is perfectly fine) and some of them just work on  their own personal projects. We don’t provide food except for intro  meetings.

Recently,  two of our leaders (Mark Senne and Nick Iten) created a new leadership  structure— we have 3 months left in the semester: month one is going to  be learning Python; month two is going to be game development using  Unity and Java, etc., which a lot of us still need to learn how to do;  and month three, which is what I’m most excited about, is “make your own startup idea”,  where you create an idea and probably code a website for it. And  that’ll be May, so we’ll graduate, and the students will go on summer  vacation, so that’s their last thing in the club this year. We’ll have a  discussion room to celebrate what we’ve done towards the end of the  year, and that’ll be fun…

And there’s one more thing that makes Mason Hack Club unique from a lot of other clubs: development teams are something we introduced last semester… Because someone complained  to us that Mason Hack Club is only giving opportunities to the leads, so  the development teams where club members have to opportunity to  contribute directly to websites of various groups. It didn’t go too well  last year, but we’re restarting it this year, and I’ll be helping out.

“What does your leadership team look like?”

We’ve  taken steps to make our leadership team more inclusive. The seniors are  all pretty much core since the club started, but we have an  open-application for next year’s leadership team because we wanted to  train them, so we did that at the beginning of the year. Every current  club leader has a few juniors working with them.

Our leadership team is very adaptable — we have our own titles, but they are not super rigid. And now,  there’s a shift in power as the juniors gradually take over, which is  why the leaders of Hack Cincinnati are all juniors, with the seniors helping out as advisors.

“What parts of leading a Hack Club are the most unforgettable?”

The people. We’ve done several big events, but I’ve never really been to a  hackathon, except for CincyHacks, which I didn’t run because of the  college season, but I went as a member. So the whole experience of  hackathons I’ve only received from an organizational standpoint, so I’ll  probably remember that too. But I think the most I’m going to remember  the people. The seniors have been together for 2 and a half years, and  for juniors, we’ve already fully incorporated them into our group. I  think we have a pretty good community—we have our weekly meetings on  Tuesdays, and we also have our leads meeting on Wednesdays, so every  Wednesday all the leads are in a room together (which I think is really  nice). Megan is obsessed with bubble tea and Qdoba so after the meeting,  we would all go out to a mall nearby and hang out. So I think having  this close leadership team is awesome, and it’s definitely something to remember.

What advice would you give to other leaders of Hack Club?

First thing I would say is to stay super organized. We  have a Google Drive folder that has stayed remarkably intact. When Jack  Margeson, for example, was on-boarded to our leadership team last year,  he needed to find all the email resources that we collected.  Immediately, someone on the team knew where all that was, therefore we  are able to save the time to redo all the work.

Also, start early—which  we did not do. But we’ve actually started Hack Cincinnati really early,  although we have another event in March, so that’s a little stressful.  But staying on time for things always makes it better. The biggest thing  about Hack Club is that it’s always been fun — sometimes I might get  stressed out of an event, but it’s never painful. An event is a really  cool opportunity for our members, and organizing it is also an  incredible experience.

CincyHacks 2018, a high school hackathon organized by students of Mason Hack Club

Want to learn more about Dalton? Visit his website, or find him in the Hack Club Slack Community (@cravend), on Instagram, and on GitHub.

Interview  conducted by Max Wofford & written by Mingjie Jiang. Special thanks  to Ava Scherocman, Evan Nishi, Kisha Yan, Larissa Tsai and Megan Cui  for contributing to or proofreading this article.

Originally published on the Hack Club Medium Blog.