Why I Decided On A Non-Traditional Path After Comm School

How HackCville Helped Me Broaden The Realm of Possibilities

What is HackCville? It’s a question that people have asked me for years, and one that seems to have more answers than it should. I’ve heard many attempted explanations:

HackCville is a place where people do cool stuff

HackCville is a group of smart people who teach you relevant skills

HackCville is a home for budding digital designers

HackCville is a community of learners and makers

The problem with encapsulating the HackCville experience is that all of the above descriptions (and many more) are 100% true. HackCville holds different value and meaning to everyone who walks through the doors of #9 Elliewood. But after many conversations with HC members and some serious thought, I arrived at what I think truly embodies the spirit of HackCville.

HackCville is a place where you’re told you can do anything, and taught how to.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an english major who wants to be a software engineer. Or if you want to sell sustainably packaged smoothies around central grounds. Or if you want to empower female micro-entrepreneurs in rural India. You can do it all. If you’re afraid you don’t know how to, HackCville will teach you.

Those are all real HackCville journeys. Those people are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. When they tell their stories, I see a sparkle in their eyes that is increasingly harder to find. I see purpose, passion, and fulfillment. The realization that dreams might be easier to take hold of than we’ve been told.

We all grew up being asked about those dreams. When we were young, we idealized astronauts and firefighters. Then, reality hit us like a brick wall.

How am I going to afford to live on my “dream”?

How will I raise a family?

How will I make money?

If nobody else is doing the “dream” thing, is it wrong for me to?

At some point, most of us feel the pressures of our communities, families, and colleagues.

There is no place that I have felt those pressures more than at UVA. Between Greek life, Comm School, and the 16,732 other ways I compare myself to everyone around me, there’s barely any space left for my individuality. Before I even realized it, my dreams were no longer my own. Rather, they were the milestones and goals that I thought would most impress the people around me.

Then I joined HackCville.

HackCville was the first place somebody listened to one of my ideas and said, “Hey, why don’t you just try it?” That’s how Node, our data science program, came to be. There were all sorts of plans for it, but when I suggested we do it differently, HackCville encouraged me to run with my vision.

At their core, that’s the ideal that all of our programs attempt to embody. Graphic design, data science, entrepreneurship, photography, or web development isn’t the what, it’s the how. You could be the world’s most talented developer. It doesn’t amount to anything if you don’t know what to do with it.

Maybe you want to improve sustainability around Charlottesville. Maybe you want to invent a B2B real estate marketplace. Maybe you just want to make laundry less annoying. Web design, data science, software engineering, and entrepreneurship are just the tools that’ll help you start to get there. Oh, and you can get there. Anyone can.

That’s what I love most about HackCville. It’s a place abound with inspiration and positivity. You’re not limited or defined by “what you’re good at”. There is no “right answer” to anything. And that’s alright. You can be good at anything. Every answer can be a right answer. All you need to do is try. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have 200 people trying alongside you.

If you’re interested at all in applying, you can find the relevant information here.

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About The Pioneer + HackCville

The Pioneer is the publication of HackCville. All of our producers are either current students or graduates of HackCville’s media education programs.

Our producers develop skills in modern media production through publishing stories about creative, civic, and entrepreneurial innovators in the University of Virginia and greater Charlottesville community. Learn more →

HackCville is a platform for experiential education and career development. We train students in high-demand skills, accelerate their ideas, and connect them to jobs, opportunities, and a tight-knit community.

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