Helping New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina, both physically and emotionally, set Victor York-Carter on a path that would eventually lead him to software development and Hack Reactor, with a stop at the White House to meet President Obama.
“We were rebuilding schools literally from scratch,” York-Carter recalls of the days after Katrina.
In addition to helping to physically rebuild the city, he worked with a youth advocacy group to record the experiences of young people who had lived through the hurricane. Through his activism, York found his way to Operation Spark, an educational nonprofit and community center. He had dabbled with coding before then, but the courses at Operation Spark took him to another level.
“We come in at the latest two hours before class starts,” York-Carter notes. “We watch the lectures together. We bring food for each other. Operation Spark has fostered a community.”
By sharing a class with people in the same room as him and around the world, York feels like he has the best of both worlds.
“In terms of allocating your stress, having someone to talk to across the room has been very powerful. It’s also crazy beneficial to have people doing the course in Korea or Poland both to pick their brains, and just have that cultural share. Having that dynamic group within our cohort, but also the other folks is extremely beneficial.”
Due to his advocacy work and the Obama Administration’s interest in promoting coding schools as pathways to the middle class, York-Carter was invited to the White House for a conference on improving communities through public data. York-Carter met the President, who called him out by name in a speech later that day.
For York-Carter, that moment was as much about Operation Spark as it was about him.
“It’s a recognition of not just the work I’ve been doing, but the whole organization. All of that huge critical mass, just meeting the president is affirmation that we’re all doing something right.”
That sense of validation also extended to Hack Reactor, which came up frequently at the conference.
“Hack Reactor is based in California and I’m in Washington and people are talking about it,” he recalls. “That kind of external validation really makes the whole thing make sense.”
Now a few weeks into his Hack Reactor experience, York-Carter is getting the powerful educational experience he expected, but has been surprised by how much attention is paid to mental and emotional wellbeing.
“There’s a deep human element that’s attached to everything,” says York-Carter. “It feels good.”
Eventually, York-Carter would like to help others down the same pathway that he found.
“I definitely want to make sure I’m giving back and helping Operation Spark as much as I can,” he says. “I want to take other people through that same pipeline. I know a lot of people who are interested but seem a little lost, and software development is a viable alternative.”
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