Citizen Schools Students Take Top Prizes at Change the Future Hackathon


Over 30 students from Renaissance Academy participated in the Wells Fargo Change the Future hackathon on Friday May 31st at PwC offices in San Jose, the culminating event of Citizen Schools’ semester-long Change the Future coding clubs. Teaching Fellows at both Renaissance campuses implemented rigorous weekly sessions where student groups designed application prototypes to solve an issue in their community. In preparation for the hackathon, students spent hours researching, designing, and creating business plans for their apps.

During the all day student showcase, students perfected their business plan and pitches to present to a team of industry-expert judges who recommended teams advance. The day long event comprised of student presentations on mobile app prototypes they developed that tackled social issues in Santa Clara County. The students advocated for topics ranging from food donations to online tutoring and emergency services for school shootings. They showcased remarkable communication skills in responding to questions from the judging panel, which included executives from corporate companies who were visibly moved by the theme of community service that inspired student projects. Additionally, the Renaissance teams also had discussions about their apps with professionals from Wells Fargo and PwC to refine their business plans and developed an initial draft with the goal of further research on the financial viability of their business models.

Four teams advanced to the final round and 2 of them were from Renaissance Academy! The overall winner was Renaissance Academy at Mathson (RAM) in the “Best Overall Middle School” category, awarded to the student group that was able to develop a wholesome product and present it successfully. The winning group was awarded $500 in prize money and was led by three sixth grade students named Daniel Crawford, Nicholaus Scherger, Cristian Andrade and two seventh graders - Venezia Mejia and Tian Chiu. Their app, “Give Back” combines local resources on one platform to make giving and receiving donations easier for users. The app does this through partnering with local homeless shelters, which serve as the pick up and drop off points for donations since it targets the homeless community.


The winner for best design went to another RAM team, with eighth graders Aariyah Harmon, Ava Kemmerer, Johnny Pham, Paulo Jimenez and seventh grade student, Ashley Samario. The students received $250 in prize money. The app, titled “Track a snac”, their focused on a GPS function that helps users track food donations at nearby locations. The students were excited to incorporate the needs of their target audience and also included Spanish translations in their app design, which was a feature lauded highly by their judging panel.