YCP hackathon runner-up takes community-centered venture Provino into next phase
Three-plus days and a couple of very long nights into his project, Travis Jones was on the brink of throwing all his work away. This isn’t any good, he kept telling himself.
Instead, just minutes before the hackathon submission deadline at York College of Pennsylvania last fall, he hit “Submit.”
“I finally just decided to go for it,” the incoming junior recalls.
Today, Travis is working on the next phase of a community-centered venture that he almost abandoned. He’s received grants from two York organizations to push the project forward.
Soon, his idea might take root and bear fruit both at a local theater – and beyond.
“It’s been really fantastic so far,” Travis says. “It’s great because, at each point in this journey, I’ve been given the skills and the confidence I’ve needed to succeed.”
Travis grew up wanting to be an inventor. The Lancaster County native recalls jotting down ideas then building them with Legos. By the end of high school, he’d discovered computer programming and enrolled in York College looking to learn in a small, hands-on computer engineering department.
When he learned the school would be hosting its first-ever hackathon last year, he jokes he came for the food and free stuff.
But, what he found at YCP’s marathon competition for innovation was a community-service category. And from there an idea took shape.
A friend at the DreamWrights Center for Community Arts in York had mentioned how hard it was for a local performing arts center to sort through dozens of audition tapes and applications. It took too much time. So, Travis spent the weekend designing something different, naming it Provino, which means “audition” in Italian.
Using WordPress and his limited design skills, he created the bones of a better way — sortable, streamlined and more intelligent – then against both his better judgment and his more seasoned competitors, turned it in.
He won $250 for his effort . But that was just the beginning.
‘What we like to see’
Oscar Winters, associate director of the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship, recalls how Travis’ presentation stood out.
“You could tell he had the desire, that he had a good idea, and he wanted to pursue it,” Winters says. “That’s exactly what we like to see.”
The J.D. Brown Center agreed to seed Travis with capital to pursue his project, money to match a grant he had received from a local organization. In addition, this fall Travis will have a spot in the J.D. Brown Center’s business incubator complete with his own office and access to a wide array of resources.
The incubator is one more way YCP students with bold ideas can shape the surrounding community and beyond, Winters says, no matter their major.
“We think entrepreneurship is about more than running a business — it’s about taking risks,” he says. “It’s about deciding what you want to do with your life, and then following that path with passion.”
Forward with a purpose
Travis will spend this summer at a co-op assignment in Exton, the first of three such college internships to help him hone in on his path beyond YCP. But fall will find him back in York, ready to take the next step on what he started.
That means challenging himself to learn ever more complicated computer programming, while growing a new business. It means, too, that a former high school theater student will get to help a friend – and a community.
That’s the best part of this project, Travis says, and of York College. It’s allowed him the freedom to work on something that he believes in.
“This has taken me out of the classroom and reminded me that these things we’re learning are applicable and real,” Travis says. “It’s made me understand, I can really make people’s lives better.”