Jason Gibson is a product of his environment and has chosen to climb the higher ladder to make a difference in his community.

Time Behind Bars Paved Way To Purpose

Gibson dabbled in different hustles that weren’t in his best interests, which landed him behind bars for his involvement with narcotics.

However, he never shied away from his truth. While serving a five-year sentence, he became more conscious of his surroundings and how it keeps those who look like him off the streets and into solitary confinement.

Gibson on his time behind bars: “I ended up going to prison in 2013 during a special narcotics investigation. I did the five years and that’s when I was able to sit down and just self-reflect. Prison can be therapeutic to self-reflect and dive into reading and just acquiring more information and knowledge about society, slavery, systemic racism, and all those things. During that time, I really became resentful toward our government and towards society, especially when it came to Black people,” Gibson told AfroTech.

A purpose formed in isolation: Gibson’s calling was formed while serving time as he felt compelled to create a solution that could put an end to repeated cycles that sabotaged the potential of generations. He wanted to create a constructive avenue that could help underserved communities in New York reach financial stability. Therefore, Hood Code became one of the many initiatives he has put at the forefront to ensure a better outcome is at reach for the next generation.

A focus on youth: “It really boiled down to me wanting to have a proactive approach to systemic racism and disparities in the socioeconomic situation of our community,” Gibson explained. “So, the school-to-prison pipeline, all of those things, I was like, let me get young kids, get them exposed to this, try to help them develop skills, and try to help them see that this is another form of either education or entertainment or a hobby so that as they’re developing their young minds, they know that this exists and this is gonna be an option for that eight-year-old until they are an adult.”

More On Hood Code

The nonprofit organization, cemented in 2019, is designed to engage New York City’s youth, between the ages of eight to 15, living in public housing. The coding program is at no cost to participants, and their educational journey will be supported with resources such as laptops and by providing internet access.

 Exposing children to coding: “We teach them coding and the ultimate goal is to try to create financial opportunities for these kids at a young age,” Gibson said. “The tech industry is blowing up. So, it was about introducing them to coding at an early age so that by the time they were young adults and adults, this was already demystified for them and they wouldn’t really feel intimidated to go into these spaces, which are a lot of times not dominated by people like us but to also give them the skills at an early age to get good jobs and change their family’s financial legacies and socioeconomic conditions. That was the motivation in prison when I conceptualized the idea for Hood Code.”

Marker of success: The program is already changing lives. One participant in the program landed an internship with Uber after being introduced to computer science. For Gibson, these are his markers of success, ensuring that his program is making opportunities available to underserved communities.

Wins $200K To Accelerate Hood Code

David Prize winner: His efforts will be supported further, thanks to $200,000 in unrestricted funding from David Prize — awarded to five New Yorkers annually. Gibson plans to use the funds to create seven additional New York City Housing Authority developments and to expand, train, and equip additional teachers, including alumni, who are breathing life into the program.

Allocation of funds: “It’s going to help with our programming and expansion. We’re getting more laptops, I’m able to hire more teachers because a lot of the funding I use is for teachers. I hire young adult teachers that are high school graduates or young adults to teach and facilitate the classes and they’re from the neighborhood. We are bringing job opportunities to people from the neighborhood and the kids that we are teaching, they’re working with people who can be role models that have lived the same or similar lived cultural experiences as them. That’s important to me. So, the David Prize is instrumental in me being able to really take Hood Code to the next level,” Gibson said.