Coming out of progressive educational student communities like Hack Club and SRND, I was fortunate enough to meet people who were truly passionate about creating opportunities for students to lead. From there, I was given the opportunity to lead fascinating programs like Hack Chicago, the Midwest's largest high school hackathon, and 6+ seasons of CodeDay, a small, local, yet intimate program striving for diversity in computer science enrollment. Programs that I started and contributed to reached thousands of students across the nation, and I was able to meet some of my best friends and partners along the way.
But the communities that fueled me for the past 4 years have changed. The lack of opportunities like hackathons and basic CS education is no longer a "universal" problem.
We're seeing an overabundance of student-led events in some areas of the nation, allowing local residents to hop from a hackathon to another over the same weekend without much output, leaving students from underrepresented regions completely out of the game. We're seeing events reporting less than a quarter, or even a fifth of racial or gender minority groups in tech, and others bottoming the bare minimum of an event experience.
Sponsors are leaving, because they feel like the amount of impact they can make has decreased, yet there's still a huge potential for their investments left unseen. Students are no longer returning, because they think they have already "saturated" the experience, not knowing what a hackathon can offer is only dependent on what they are willing to put in.
And I want to change that.
Half a year ago, I co-founded Execute Big, an organization dedicated to bringing resources directly to students – with Travel Grant, students from less resourceful areas can be brought across the nation to unique, well-established events and conferences; with our private school events, we are able to re-purpose private institutions' innovation budgets towards their own hackathons, a purpose-driven format that has been tested to bring real innovation around; and with event advising, we are bringing what we know about leading events to new leaders, shaping the next generations of hackathons.
It's not the raw impact, but the marginal impact that matters.
And this is just a beginning. I'm grateful to have become who I am today, and I want to support every passionate student to become as lucky as I am.