Super-powered Youth Take on Gentrification in Atlanta

Super-powered Youth Take on Gentrification in Atlanta


Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography
Participants, Goodie Nation Staff and Volunteers at Goodie Nation Hack Mob @ Smash July 2016 – Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography

Our Mission

It’s a sizzling hot on a Friday in the summer of July, and the alarm blares,  alerting you to wake up and save the day for thousands of lives in your community. Do you get up and do something about it or annoyingly press the snooze button?  If you chose the latter, you lose. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. If you chose to jump up and get involved, you’re on the winning team along with 30 amazing students and 25 proud parents who took part in  Hack Mob @ SMASH Pathways Summer 2016 Edition at the Morehouse College Ray Charles Performing Arts Center tasked with the challenge of developing ideas to solve problems in Economic Development as it relates to housing and gentrification.
These participants started off the day as sidekicks and aspiring heroes wanting to soar like Superman or kick butt like Black Panther, but by the end of the day, were pumped up and taught to formulate effective ideas for social impact with focus on the serious need to shove housing stability and equal [development] access in the face of Atlanta’s gentrification trend. With their newfound powers, students were challenged develop ideas to help 100,000 people who live in areas affected by gentrification to keep their homes or sell them at a premium price.

Teams work expeditiously to determine root causes of gentrification and develop solutions in the Goodie Nation "Youth Design Thinking Workshop" - Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography
Teams work expeditiously to determine root causes of gentrification and develop solutions in the Goodie Nation “Youth Design Thinking Workshop” – Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography

The Master Plan

The 5-hour innovation lab, led by Goodie Nation’s own co-founding superheroes Joey Womack and Justin Dawkins, spoke on our process of coming up with moonshot social impact ideas that can be put into motion successfully. At some point, several of the initially tired Padawans awakened and engaged the force within to share the reasons why most business ideas fail. A few mentioned how:
–  People don’t apply their ideas
–  There’s too much pressure
–  Some give up because they lost interest and/or motivation
–  Resources for funding are lacking and out of reach
–  Networking opportunities aren’t available or individuals don’t know how to network

And just for taking initiative, a few were awarded with the surprise of cash.
Discussing more opportunities to get money, nationally-acclaimed scholarship expert, Kenneth Williams from The Scholarship Academy, then gave a short talk to the students on how to use the ideas from the session to increase the chances of acquiring college scholarships funding.  The gist of his message was to:

    1. “Get Involved,” take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves and create opportunities through networking.
    2. “Follow your interests,” follow your passion (if you don’t know it, it’s okay, find yourself and find out what that is)
    3. “ Start building,” Think of the future. “Think about where you’ll be 5-10 years from now. Build Your Brand. Stick with it.”
King Williams, creator of The Atlanta Way film, role playing the gentry vs gentrified - Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography
King Williams, creator of The Atlanta Way film, role play the gentry vs gentrified – Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography

Pep Talk

After their gears were grinded with Joey’s welcoming comments and bodies fueled by Curate Bars, the rising Metro Atlanta 9th graders were introduced to local innovation leaders. With DJ Battle bringing the house down with an amazing high-energy hip hop environment, the following group of tech professionals (developers, designers, product managers, etc.) shared the nitty gritty stories of how they came to be the heroes they are today and also gave a few key nuggets of wisdom on startup culture:

  • Kelly Marble, Director of Executive Engagement @ Technology Association of Georgia: Growing up, she described herself a social butterfly, track athlete, and teacher’s pet that “…wasn’t afraid to speak up and speak out.” She paved her own way through sheer force. Her start in innovation came from a job found on doing sales at Microsoft and  years later, she grew into teaching tech to girls at “Band of Coders.”
  • Candace Mitchell, CEO & Founder @ Myavana: Though a successful business leader and clever graduate of Georgia Tech, in her childhood she was very shy and didn’t fit in with everyone. She advised student to “Stay true to who [they] are and [they’ll] find the right friends.”
  • Michael Westbrooks, Founder of CodeWithMike: With a background in Marketing & Analytics, he currently works on and provides instructions for IOS apps. His knack for exclusivity was innate, “I wanted to be the first to set the example,” whether it meant going to college, being successful, or whatever else came in life.
  • Wylesha Rachell, Senior Web Development @ Turner Broadcasting: At the moment works on new tools & features for the NBA at Turner, but she always was a geek. Once she received a computer from her grandparents, she had no idea what it was, but she grew into using it and her parents continued to direct her toward that passion for tech. Wylesha said, “I saw my mother work hard and long hours and I didn’t want to live like that.” So she wanted out figure out how to work smarter, not harder and became the first to actually attend college and graduate.
  • Jason Crain, Co-Founder @ PartPic: Growing up, his parents fueled his sense of creative drive through observation. He imitated his parents’ examples of problem solving and fearlessness. “I tackled problems with an open mind and an innovative process.” He  moved around somewhat as child and when transitioning from public to private school, he felt the innate need to try and” let people know that I was just as good as them.” Jason’s creed was to stay focused and excel at everything.
  • Daniel Santos, Business Development @ HackOut: A true tech ninja, though he admittedly says he started off as a “knucklehead.” “I didn’t have many role models that had an education,” so he motivated himself and modeled at other successful entities outside of his immediate grasp.

Gentrification guru King Williams, creator of The Atlanta Way documentary, put the challenge into perspective explaining the term to attendees and calling a few volunteers up to act out the scenario of a poor homeowner vs an affluent individual occupying that homeowner’s neighborhood. 
Coached by entrepreneurs and tech innovators, students eagerly took action by participating in the design thinking session to develop tech ideas for connecting those affected by gentrification to nearby emerging economic opportunities.

9th Grade SMASH Academy students pondering in Goodie Nation "Youth Design Thinking Workshop"
9th Grade SMASH Academy students pondering in Goodie Nation “Youth Design Thinking Workshop”

Conspiring to Inspire

Meanwhile in a far away land — or rather, just down the hall, parents of these early teen titans participated in a separate workshop to get the scoop and a little insight on deeper details on how to use social impact projects and entrepreneurship for college scholarship brand building as well as the basics and importance of STEM from Tommy Clay of BK International Education Consultancy.

Youth show off their super-powered ideas on stage at Goodie Nation Hack Mob @ SMASH July 2016 - Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography
Youth show off their super-powered ideas on stage at Goodie Nation Hack Mob @ SMASH July 2016 – Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography

The Final Battle

After surviving an intense, yet culturally-relevant, 2 hour design thinking workshop, the six teams of 9th graders presented their ideas on stage. Their ideas were:

  • Go Nanny: an Uber-like service that frees up time for mothers to take jobs further away from home
  • CJA: takes out the bias from job screenings, and improves the job placement rate of ex-offenders
  • Neighborhood Home Helper Insurance: a Groupon for insurance in gentrified neighborhoods
  • reBound: Kiva-like service for renters in need
  • Homeware: Shows data on home values, construction, etc. as well community planning meetings
  • Tomorrow Today: Allows organizations to swipe through list of residents in need and give loans, based on non-traditional credit ratings.
Co-Founder Joey Womack sporting a cool T-Shirt. (Want yours? Contact us.) - Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography
Co-Founder Joey Womack explaining some mumbo-jumbo to volunteers while sporting a cool T-Shirt. (Want yours? Contact us.) – Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography

Do Good That’s Impactful

Wouldn’t you like to support students like these to continue to come up with great concepts to address real problems? Captain America … err, rather, Goodie Nation needs YOU! We truly believe there’s nothing worse than having a great discussion about something and then fail to take action afterward, so don’t talk about it, be about it. We’re looking for everyday passionate people, developers, creatives, marketing, communication, salespeople and more! Lend a hand, brain or whatever skills you have to help other heroes save the world. Join Goodie Nation!
We want to know: What are your thoughts on gentrification in Atlanta or elsewhere? Comment with your thoughts or questions below.  Don’t miss out on the next Goodie Nation event! Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn  to stay updated on events, news and volunteer opportunities!