We spoke to Silicon Valley high school junior Gina Choi, who was recently named the youngest winner of the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Global Hackathon for her solution Notes for Support.
Gina Choi is a high school junior from Silicon Valley. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Choi decided to take part in the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Global Hackathon, to create a solution that could be used to show frontline workers how much support was behind them.
The hackathon was supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, Facebook, Microsoft, Slack, TikTok and Twitter, among many more big names in tech. The hackathon attracted 18,926 participants from all over the world and Choi was the youngest of the 89 winners selected.
We recently spoke to Choi about her project, her hobbies and how young people have been very engaged with the crisis, offering much-needed support and solutions wherever they can.
Notes for Support
Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Choi explained: “Notes for Support is a website where anyone can submit a note of encouragement for Covid-19 healthcare workers or patients. The notes are then printed out and sent to hospitals to be distributed.”
Choi said that the project was inspired by her own experience in quarantine, which took place two years ago when she spent a month indoors due to acanthamoeba keratitis, which is an infection that affects the eye.
“During that time, I experienced an incredible amount of loneliness and anxiety, so it meant the world to me whenever I received a card from a friend,” Choi said. “There is something so powerful in receiving a physical note in a time of need – it shows that you’re not alone and that there are people out there who care. Hence, I was inspired to create Notes for Support.”
When asked how she felt about being the hackathon’s youngest winner, Choi said: “It was honestly so unexpected, especially because a majority of the participants were professional engineers. I felt really grateful that my project was chosen, because it allowed my website to gain a larger audience.”
The response from healthcare workers and Covid-19 patients who have received notes thanks to Choi’s project has been quite positive.
“One healthcare worker emailed me photos of his coworkers taking selfies with their notes and a nurse from Brooklyn called me the other day saying that the room just lit up when people started receiving them,” Choi said. “These are the kinds of responses that make the project so rewarding.”
Young people helping out
This isn’t the young woman’s first venture into tech. She explained that she is the founder and creator of Sunday Hacks, which provides a six-week workshop series to introduce around 150 low-income students from East San Jose to computer science.
At the moment, Sunday Hacks has had to postpone its workshops due to Covid-19, but Choi has been using the time to secure corporate partnerships and hone her web development skills. In addition to working with Sunday Hacks, Choi is a member of the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI).
Choi said that she has seen many young people engage with the Covid-19 crisis in a constructive way. She said: “On social media, there are many student-run accounts promoting emotional wellbeing during quarantine and collecting handmade masks.
“Additionally, a third of the almost 19,000 participants in the Covid-19 Global Hackathon were students, so I think that a lot of young people do care and are engaged in numerous initiatives to help out during this time of crisis.”
When the Notes for Support and Sunday Hacks founder is not studying or working on those two projects, she spends her weekends working on other side projects, running on the Guadalupe River Trail and reading The New Yorker. You can check out Choi’s website here.