As I type this, it’s day 2 of our Hack the Hood program, funded by OFCY and The Thomas J Long Foundation.  In a spacious classroom at United Roots, 15 young people are having a lively discussion with our instructors about the types of businesses in Oakland that are not showing up in Google Maps and places, and how they’d benefit from having a directory listing and a 1 page mobile web  site in place.

At the same time, outreach coordinator Matt Boitano is on the phone finalizing donations of snack foods from Trade Joes, Piedmont Grocery, Mandela Foods, Arizmendi , Noah’s Bagels and The Food Mill.  I am in the other corner, talking to our business partners–KONO, Oakland Grown, Lake Merritt and Downtown CBDs–about the materials we need to finalize for our merchant outreach.

Welcome to the first active week of Hack the Hood, the new program from the center for media change that trains Oakland youth in web/tech development skills that they use to help local small businesses become discoverable in Google maps & directories and in search on the mobile web.

We’ve got an amazing program manager (Zakiya Harris), a brilliant leader trainer (Juan Gomez), two talented program associates (Raven Atkins and Max Gibson) and a relentless (but nice) outreach coordinator (Matt Boitano) working hard to deliver great mentoring and tech instructor to our youth team at the same time we make a hefty slice of local businesses more visible online.

We would like some help. Our program runs July 8-August 16 and we have lots of ways folks can be involved:
a. We can work with your organization:
If you have a business based in downtown/uptown Oakland or the KONO area, we’d like to include you in our summer project–go to and fill it out and we’ll circle back with one of our youth developers

b. You could volunteer:  

We could use some volunteers-
we need a volunteer coordinator about 10 hours a week–about 3 of them on site, to help coordinate our volunteers,and we could use volunteers for a few HTH projects:
–Mentor: mentor our youth by helping 1:1 in the lab at United Roots 2-3 hours a week (two hours slots, total of 5 people needed)
–Plan: help plan our end of the year graduation event/party on August 22nd (need 2-4 people to help)
–Chaperones: Come on our field trips (3 slotted, we haz dates, need 2)
–Advise: program advisors: We need ambassadors who can help us connect with more companies that can help model tech entrepreneurship for our youth and who can help us find funding and support. (Looking for 3-4 people who would be both advisors and an ambassador group)
If any of these are you, plan to come to our meeting and RSVP, please. (

We’ll be having a volunteer orientation (coffee and talk) on Thursday, July 18, from 5:30-7 PM
.  If you’re interested in finding ways to volunteer and support this program, this would be a great time to come through.
If you’d like to attend, please let us know at

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local ( a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.