Pitzer Hosts First Civic Hackathon

Although 5C students may volunteer in Claremont public schools or venture to the Claremont Village to shop and dine, for many students the city remains largely unfamiliar. Claremont is a land unto itself, complete with a local government with which few students are acquainted. To bridge the gap between the city and the colleges, Pitzer College’s first Civic Hackathon on April 29 gave students the chance to come together and code with community leaders, local business owners, and other Southern California coders. 

“There
are students here who have been on campus for four years, and a lot of them that
I’ve spoken with don’t go into the Village, they don’t spend time in the Village, they don’t see that there is a lot of things you can do in the Village,” said Michael Ceraso PZ ’14, a political science major and a founder of the event. “Our thought process is that we can close that divide.”

Community leaders including Claremont Mayor Joe Lyons and other City Council members attended the Civic Hackathon along with representatives from companies such as General Assembly and NationBuilder. About 70 people attended the all-day event and helped to brainstorm and build apps, including an app that will provide a list of upcoming events in the Village.

“All people need is a space to collaborate, a space where it’s safe to talk about their ideas, and amazing opportunities can happen,” said Arielle Schlesinger PZ ’14, a technology and social change major and a leading organizer for the event. “My goal was to help provide the city and the students with the space to come together—talk about ideas and things they wanted to see.”

Sam Pedroza, who has been a councilman for 7 years and served a term as mayor from 2011 to 2012, spoke favorably about the hackathon and said that he would support similar events in the future.

“This event is really one of those door-opening experiences in getting more of the student brainpower interacting with the community,” he said. “I want to see the city host programs like here in this room when we start talking about the city budget or when we talk about what we’re going to do with the wilderness—things like that, where I think the students would want to have an input.”

Pedroza said that he has noticed a distance between the 5Cs and the city of Claremont.

“With
the students, I think the city has failed in that we look at the students as
dollar signs, and I think that’s what we could be and should be doing better,” he said.

He added that the City Council could be doing more to reach out to students and create a stronger relationship with them.  

“Whether it’s two years
or four years, [the students] are part of this community as much as everyone else is,” he said. 

As graduating seniors, Ceraso and Schlesinger do not have plans for a second hackathon, but they encourage students to organize interactive events between the 5Cs and the Claremont community. 

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