Bridging the Opportunity Divide

When Litter and Graffiti Overtook Their Neighborhood, These Teens Invented an App

July 11, 2014
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When Litter and Graffiti Overtook Their Neighborhood, These Teens Invented an App
EPA Chica Squad members, Margarita Tenisi, Rosie Valencia, Ashley Davis and Vanessa Tostado, created an app called “Tag It!” The app allows users to take a photo of a site that needs cleaning, tag the location, and then create an event. Once it's posted, community members can visit the site to clean it up. Screengrab via YouTube
With just a tap on the screen, they now have a cleaner community.

If you’re from a community like East Palo Alto, residents in your neighborhood are probably complaining about the graffiti on signs and fences and the constant trash littering sidewalks and parks.

But a group of teenagers came up with an innovative idea to clean up their area. Their plan? Interestingly, it starts with a cell phone.

EPA Chica Squad members, Margarita Tenisi, Rosie Valencia, Ashley Davis and Vanessa Tostado, created an app called “Tag It!” The app allows users to take a photo of a site that needs cleaning, tag the location, and then create an event. Once it’s posted, community members can visit the site to clean it up.

According to Valencia, the idea came to the teenagers after they asked East Palo Alto residents if the graffiti and trash in the area was an issue.

“We surveyed people and ask them what they thought about the community trash, and what they thought about graffiti in the community, and most people said it was a big issue, so we wanted to fix that,” she said.

According to Palo Alto Online, the teenagers worked on two borrowed laptops for just four hours each week at the Bayshore Christian Ministries in East Palo Alto to create the app. Assisting them were two tech professionals, Selina Martinez, a Bayshore volunteer who used to work at a Facebook apps startup, and Sarah Clatterbuck, a LinkedIn web developer. In just about three months, it was complete.

“I was just really amazed at their ideas, their input, the fact that they were able to create a functional prototype in 12 weeks with just a few hours every week,” Martinez told Palo Alto Online. “Sarah and I were talking about how long it takes — it takes about that amount of time, but working full time.”

With their newly developed app, the girls competed in the third Technovation Challenge competition, where they were up against applicants from the U.S. and other parts of the world — including China, Yemen, Indonesia, Ukraine, Jordan, Brazil, India, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

They placed in the top 20 worldwide and in the top five out of 36 entries in the San Francisco region, according to Palo Alto Online.

The video below, produced by Made With Code, shows viewers how to use the app.

Through their work, the teens not only have a cleaner community, but they also realized that they may have a potential career in the tech scene, which is largely dominated by men.

“Through making ‘Tag It!’ it’s opened my eyes to coding, and it’s just opened my eyes to new things that I could do with my life, and it’s not something that only certain people can do, it’s something that everyone can do,” Valencia said.

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