YouthQuest Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Casino Night YouthQuest 10th Anniversary

The YouthQuest Foundation marked its 10th anniversary on October 14 with a Casino Night and Open House to showcase the newly upgraded 3D ThinkLink Lab.

Guests play games at Casino Night celebrating YouthQuest's 10th anniversary

Action in our lobby-turned-casino

The atmosphere was festive as guests played casino games in the lobby of our Chantilly, Virginia, headquarters and enjoyed great food and drinks.

They also got to tour the lab and meet some of the at-risk teens they’re helping by supporting YouthQuest.

Several students from DC’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy were on hand to show guests what they’re learning in their 3D class.

The 3D ThinkLink Initiative, YouthQuest’s signature STEM education project for at-risk youth, uses 3D design and printing as a vehicle for teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills. We have reached nearly 250 young people since we launched the project three years ago.

Pink Frog 3D printers on display in the 3D ThinkLink Lab during YouthQuest's 10th anniversary celebration

3D printers on display in the lab

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and partners, the 3D ThinkLink Lab is now equipped with a collection of 3D printers and design tools that’s unmatched in the Washington area.

We have created a valuable resource for our advanced students who use the lab for weeklong immersion training sessions, as well as for members of the community who want access to our specialized equipment.

YouthQuest was founded by Lynda Mann and Allen Cage. It was certified by the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 2005.

We are deeply grateful to all the individuals and organizations that have supported our work through the years and we are excited about doing even more to serve America’s at-risk youth in the years ahead.

3DThinkLink Students Explore Innovation in Action

Prototype Productions Inc. Co-Founder and CEO Joe Travez with 3DThinkLink students from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy during Vocational Orientation October 15, 2015

Vocational Orientation is an important part of YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative because our program does much more than introduce students to 3D design and printing.

Our goal is to teach at-risk youth to think differently so they can achieve their potential as successful adults. Their brains grow when they are exposed to new things. The more they experience, the more they have to draw on when thinking creatively about solving problems.

Prototype Productions, Inc., our 2015 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner, teamed up with Topgolf Loudoun this month to provide a valuable Vocational Orientation experience for our students from Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy and the District of Columbia’s Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy. PPI Co-Founder and CEO Joe Travez organized the October 15 event which focused on innovation.

Innovation in Practice

3DThinkLink students examine 3D-printed objects at Prototype Productions, Inc. during Vocational Orientation

Students examine 3D-printed objects at PPI

As they toured PPI’s headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, our 3D ThinkLink students discovered that innovative thinking is at the heart of the design, engineering and production work being done there. “Contemplation and action” is how Joe described it to the Cadets.

Chief Technology Officer Ben Feldman explained the ways PPI uses 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, along with traditional subtractive manufacturing methods to solve engineering problems.

For example, our students learned how the powered rail system PPI developed for military rifles not only lightens a soldier’s load by as much as 12 pounds by reducing the number of batteries he must carry, but can also be used for sending and receiving potentially lifesaving information on the battlefield.

Another PPI product they saw is a haptic device that mimics a sense of touch for training medical workers to insert IV needles or catheters into patients. Students selected for our advanced immersion training will get to try 3D modeling using haptic devices we recently added to the 3D ThinkLink Lab.

Visiting PPI showed our students some of the ways the technical knowledge and thinking skills they’re learning in class are applied in the working world. It opened their eyes to career paths they might never have considered.

Applied Innovation

From PPI, the group headed to nearby Topgolf Loudoun for a fun, hands-on lesson about innovation in action.

Topgolf Loudoun Facilities Manager Stephen Coffin explains how RFID chip-embedded golf balls are scanned and sorted

Facilities Manager Stephen Coffin explains the innovative technology behind Topgolf

Topgolf puts an imaginative, high-tech spin on the concept of a driving range. The golf balls are embedded with radio frequency identification (RFID) microchips and players try to hit targets in the outfield that are equipped with sensors that read data from the balls. The information is instantly relayed to computers that process the data, tally scores and display the information on players’ monitors.

The three-tiered facility has more than 100 player bays and hundreds of HDTVs, plus big-screen video games and other electronic goodies, all connected to a roomful of computers by miles of cable.

Director of Sales Cassandra Taylor and Facilities Manager Stephen Coffin led a behind-the-scenes tour to explain how everything works. Afterward, the students picked up the clubs and gave it a try. Few of them had ever played golf, but with a little coaching from the Topgolf pros, some of the kids quickly got into the swing of things.

A Capital Guardian ChalleNGe Academy Cadet hits a drive at Topgolf Loudoun during 3D ThinkLink class Vocational Orientation

A student experiences a high-tech twist on golf

It might have looked like just fun and games, but Topgolf was yet another new experience to stimulate creative thinking.

The Maryland and DC students wrapped up their Vocational Orientation Day by visiting the University of Maryland Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials Lab in College Park to see how researchers are using 3D printing to make medical marvels such as blood vessel grafts and bone replacements.

A week later, 25 Cadets from South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy – our largest 3D ThinkLink class ever – toured 3D Systems in Rock Hill, Duncan-Parnell’s 3D printing division in Charlotte and the University of South Carolina’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in Columbia.

Innovation’s Impact

The young people in ChalleNGe programs used to be turned off to education. For any number of reasons, they dropped out or were kicked out of school. They’ve made a commitment to turn their lives around and we’re helping them turn their brains back on.

Spending a day immersed in innovation can be a profound experience for at-risk children. It inspires them to dream big. It reminds them there’s a wide world of possibilities open to them.

We are grateful to all the companies and schools that provide Vocational Orientation tours for our students. In doing so, they are giving back to the community and investing in tomorrow’s workforce.

YouthQuest Foundation Seeks Operations Manager


This is an opportunity to lead the daily activities of our nonprofit organization based in Chantilly, Virginia. We are looking for a manager with experience in program operations, financial oversight and fundraising.

Details of the job description are below. To submit your application for the position of YouthQuest Foundation Operations Manager, please contact:
Tiesha Robertson
Recruiting Manager


The YouthQuest Foundation Operations Manager


Founded in 2002 and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2005, The YouthQuest Foundation’s mission is to provide life-changing opportunities for America’s at-risk youth.  The Foundation helps these youth fulfill their potential through academic and vocational development, infrastructure support and enrichment activities.

We do this primarily through our 3D ThinkLink Initiative, a unique education program that uses 3D design and printing to teach at-risk youth critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and to unlock their creativity.  YouthQuest developed the 3D ThinkLink Initiative to provide at-risk youth with the knowledge, skills, and experience they need to prepare for continued educational or entry-level employment in STEM-based occupations.  3D ThinkLink students gain confidence and become more engaged in their education.  In addition, students discover that learning to think creatively has benefits beyond the classroom.  Many report that it changed their life in some way – the way they looked at life, the way they were going forward and meeting challenges in the future.


The YouthQuest Foundation has been growing steadily over the last 10 years, and is now seeking to leverage its technology-based infrastructure to build STEM capacity, and foster innovation and invention in the at-risk community utilizing our 3D ThinkLink design-print initiative.  The Board of Directors is looking for a mission-focused, process-minded leader with successful experience in nonprofit management in both the financial and the operation arenas.  The Operations Manager (OM) must be a leader who is able to help others at The Foundation deliver measurable, cost-effective results that make the vision a reality.  Importantly, the successful OM will have the skills, sensitivity, and personal confidence to tap into the power that each member of the team brings to this mission while nurturing the creative spark that drives The Foundation and the 3D ThinkLink initiative.


Reporting to the Board of Directors the Operations Manager will lead all internal operations and will have the following responsibilities:

  • Working in partnership with the Founders and the BOD, update the strategic five-year plan and implement new processes and approaches to achieve it, as necessary
  • Serve as the internal leader of the organization
    • Provide all staff with a strong day-to-day leadership presence
    • Support an open-door policy among all staff
    • Lead the performance management process that measures and evaluates progress against goals for the organization
    • Provide insight and innovation to improve the Foundation’s non-profit presence and posture
  • Financial Oversight
    • Manage day-to-day financial and accounting activities: input all financial data into QuickBooks, organize all receipts and other pertinent financial records and prepare monthly Profit/Loss statements for The Board
    • Document and make bank deposits
    • Assist as required in all financial audit activities
    • Prepare and submit all documentation necessary to stay current with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs
    • Provide financial oversight of the 3D ThinkLink Design and Print Lab
    • Maintain full visibility of online sales of training, software, store items, memberships and donate now activities
  • Fundraising
    • Plan, budget for, and execute fundraising activities approved by the Board of Directors
    • Identify potential grant opportunities to the Board of Directors
    • Provide data critical to obtaining and managing grant awards
  • 3D ThinkLink Initiative
    • Provide management oversight for programs implementing the 3D ThinkLink Initiative
    • Provide management oversight of the 3D ThinkLink Design-Print Lab, including regulatory oversight and legal compliance
    • Seek strategic partnerships with programs to implement the 3D ThinkLink Initiative

Key Qualifications

As a prerequisite, the successful candidate must believe in the core values of the Foundation and be driven by the mission.  Personal qualities of integrity, credibility, and commitment to the mission of The Foundation are paramount.  The candidate should demonstrate a passion for leading social change, especially in the at-risk community.  Beyond that, we are seeking a candidate that has proven experience in nonprofit operations, and has a demonstrated ability to both lead and build the capabilities of a drive, bright, diverse team.

As noted, YouthQuest is an organization driven by the values of its people, so experience in managing a “values-driven” organization will be highly prized.  Additional requirements are:

  • Results – proven record of exceeding goals and a bottom-line orientation; evidence of the ability to consistently make good decisions through a combination of analysis, wisdom, experience, and judgment; high level of business acumen, including successful P&L management and the ability to balance the delivery of programs against the realities of a budget; problem solving, project management, and creative resourcefulness.
  • Strategic Vision and Agility – ability to think strategically, anticipate future consequences and trends, and incorporate them into the organizational plan; understands current capacity and provides focus and priority to best align resources to mission accomplishment
  • Capacity Building – ability to effectively build organization and staff capacity, developing a top-notch workforce and the processes that ensure the organization runs smoothly.
  • Leadership and Organization – exceptional capacity for managing and leading people; a team builder who can also connect with staff on an individual level; capacity to enforce accountability.
  • Action Oriented – enjoys working hard and looks for challenges; able to act and react as necessary, even if limited information is available; not afraid to take charge of a situation.
  • General Management – thorough understanding of finance and systems, particularly Foundation technology assets; broad experience with the full range of business functions and systems, including planning, budgeting, business analysis, finance, information systems and marketing.
  • Solid educational background – undergraduate degree required; MBA or similar advanced degree highly desired.

YouthQuest is an Equal Opportunity employer.  Personnel are chosen on the basis of ability without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, marital status or sexual orientation, in accordance with federal and state law.


This is an outstanding opportunity for a highly motivated professional to assume a pivotal role in the evolution of a fast-growing, highly respected Foundation.  We are seeking an individual of outstanding quality with a respected track record.

3D Printing Prevents Summer ‘Brain Drain’ at Boys & Girls Club Camp

Students learn 3D design and printing in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink classes at the Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Camp at Culmore Character Club in Fairfax Coynty, Virginia

Some students in Fairfax County, Virginia are going back to school this week with improved thinking skills, increased confidence and turned-on brains, thanks to YouthQuest’s 3D ThinkLink Initiative.

Tom Meeks (left) and Chris Roberts set up equipment for 3D ThinkLink classes at Culmore Club

Tom Meeks and Chris Roberts set up equipment for 3D ThinkLink classes

They’re the kids we introduced to 3D printing in Boys & Girls Clubs Summer Camp classes at the Culmore Character Club in July.

More than 30 students, some as young as 10, took part in the classes taught by YouthQuest Director of Instruction Tom Meeks and Chris Roberts, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington Education Director.

During two weeks of daily two-hour sessions, the students learned the basics of 3D design and printing. In the process, they had fun exploring their creativity and strengthening their problem solving skills.

It took only a few days for the kids to get comfortable with the Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software and Cube 3 printers we provided. After mastering a few simple tasks such as making cookie cutters and key chain tags personalized with their initials, they were eager to dream up their own projects.

Pauline Erpe holds a 3D-printed vase she created

Pauline Erpe holds a vase she created

“I had no idea what 3D printing was. I thought it would be kind of boring at first because it takes a lot of work,” said Pauline Erpe, 11, who is entering 7th grade. “It took a few days for me to learn, but now I know how to do it and it’s really fun. I’m really good at it now.”

We were pleased and impressed by how quickly even the youngest students were able to start turning their ideas into 3D-printed reality. The printers were running constantly, churning out imaginative objects of all kinds including castles, vehicles, superhero medallions, vases and tags for pets.

Even projects that went awry at first became opportunities for learning about how to deal with setbacks. Jimmy Escobar, 11, worked hard to create a case for his cell phone, only to discover when he printed it that the holes for the control buttons weren’t large enough. He worked through the problem by taking careful measurements and adjusting his design in Moment of Inspiration until the print turned out the way he wanted.

Tom Meeks watches Jimmy Escobar try a haptic device, which provides an artificial sense of touch in making 3D designs

Tom Meeks watches Jimmy Escobar try a haptic device, which provides an artificial sense of touch in making 3D designs

“My teacher told us to never give up. If you mess up, try again. It might take you a few times, but you’ll get it. And I got it!,” Jimmy proudly declared as he showed off his finished phone case.

This summer’s pilot project with the Boys & Girls Clubs brought our 3D ThinkLink lessons to students who are younger than the ones we’ve been working with in the Maryland, District of Columbia and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe programs. The experience convinced us that children of all ages can benefit from our curriculum, which will be available for purchase online through our website this fall.

“It’s not all about 3D printing,” Pauline explained. “I learned how to grow my brain because I was introduced to new things.”

Too often, summer vacation is “brain drain” time for young people. Our 3D ThinkLink classes helped the Culmore kids keep their minds turned on this summer so they could start the new school year ready to learn on Day One.

Fun, Fundraising at YouthQuest Golf Tournament

Golfers at YouthQuest's 10th Annual Challenge at Trump National Golf Club August 10, 2015

“One day of golf will make a difference for America’s at-risk youth all year long.” YouthQuest supporters just proved that’s more than a slogan for us.

Players, sponsors and volunteers turned out in force in August 10 for the 10th Annual Challenge at Trump National Golf Club.

YouthQuest Co-Founder & President Lynda Mann with Tournament Chairman Bill Hall

YouthQuest Co-Founder & President Lynda Mann with Tournament Chairman Bill Hall

“We couldn’t have had a better event to celebrate our 10th tournament,” said Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann. “The venue, the service, the food, the support of all our participants … We couldn’t have asked for more.”

“During these 10 years, we’ve built a base of sponsors and supporters that understand the importance of our mission to help high school dropouts turn their lives around,” she added.

This year’s tournament will help power the growth of our signature STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education project, the 3D ThinkLink Initiative. Our lessons in 3D design and printing help at-risk kids develop sorely needed critical thinking and problem solving skills. Some of the proceeds from the event will go toward improving our 3D lab. We’re also upgrading our website to make the 3D ThinkLink curriculum available for purchase online.

In addition to the funds raised through tournament sponsorships, our silent auction and raffle were the most successful ever, bringing in more than twice as much as last year.

Twenty-five teams of golfers got the rare opportunity to experience the newly remodeled Championship Course at Trump National Golf Club, Washington, DC, where the Senior PGA Championship will be held in 2017.

The CrossFit PR Star team on the final hole at Trump National

The CrossFit PR Star team on the 18th hole

Many of the faces were familiar, but we were pleased to welcome plenty of new players. This year’s field included more women than ever before. And, as always, we had the help of our generous volunteers, many of them from AOC Solutions.

“People tell us they keep coming back because this is the best charity golf tournament they attend all year,” explained Lynda, citing the high quality of the venue and the services provided.

Tournament Committee Chairman Bill Hall praised Trump National Director of Golf Kevin Morris, event planner Mary Hudgins and event coordinator Vicky Kurasz, along with the caddies and the rest of the staff. Last-minute changes are inevitable for an event as large as this one. The Trump National team took it all in stride and delivered an outstanding experience for everyone.

Former MLB pitcher Pete Schourek is pretty handy with a golf club, too.

Former MLB pitcher Pete Schourek knows his way around the links, too.

The early morning drizzle ended just in time for Golf Entertainer Brad Denton get things started with an amazing trick shot demonstration. The weather remained mild – mercifully unlike a typical mid-August Monday in Washington – allowing the players to enjoy a pleasant day on the course.

Most foursomes were matched with a celebrity player. Our VIP guests included speaker and Emmy-winning broadcaster Jan Fox, Major League Baseball alumni Shawn Camp and Pete Schourek, Washington Redskins alumni coordinator Jerry Olsen and former players Mike Bragg, Brian Carpenter, Ricky Ervins, Pat Fischer, Ken Jenkins, Carl Kammerer, Ron McDole, Kirk Mee and Ted Vactor.

Author John Gilstrap at YouthQuest's 2015 Challenge at Trump National tournament reception

Author John Gilstrap signed his new book at the tournament reception

New York Times bestselling author John Gilstrap was with us again this year, signing copies of his new thriller Against All Enemies during the post-tournament reception. Our summer intern, Bria Toussaint, spoke at the reception about her own nonprofit, GRL-PWR, and Loudoun Youth, two organizations with close ties to YouthQuest.

The 10th Annual Challenge at Trump National was a success because of the generosity of our sponsors, silent auction donors, players and volunteers. Special thanks go out to tournament photographer Jeff Mauritzen, Copy General for printing the programs and Staybridge Suites in Chantilly for providing Brad Denton’s lodging.

We also are grateful to Michael Garcia and his staff at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in McLean, Va., for hosting our VIP Reception on August 6, at which we recognized Founders Award winner Scott MacDonald, Volunteer of the Year Edna Davis, Community Partner Derrick Campana of Animal Orthocare and 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner Joe Travez of Prototype Productions, Inc. Learn more about our award winners here.

Make a note now to join us at the 11th Annual Challenge at Trump National on Monday, August 8, 2016.

Congratulations to Our 2015 Award Winners

YouthQuest Vice President Allen Cage, Founders Award Winner Scott MacDonald and YouthQuest President Lynda Mann at VIP Reception August 6, 2015

YouthQuest Co-Founders Lynda Mann and Allen Cage presented awards on August 6 to individuals and organizations whose support has been crucial to our Foundation’s success.


YouthQuest Founders Award winner Scott MacDonald

Scott MacDonald

When we considered who should receive our first Founders Award, Scott MacDonald immediately came to mind. He is the clear choice for this special recognition as we prepare to celebrate YouthQuest’s 10th anniversary.

Scott, the owner and president of RE/MAX Gateway in Chantilly, Virginia, has been with us from the beginning. Not only has he sponsored every one of our events, he’s held his own fundraisers for YouthQuest. He constantly promotes the values and mission of our Foundation.

Scott sets an outstanding example of personal integrity and commitment to community. He has been vital to our organization since the day YouthQuest was founded. We are grateful for his generous support and proud to honor him with the Founders Award.


YouthQuest 2015 Volunteer of the Year Edna Davis of AOC Solutions

Edna Davis

Edna Davis is the quintessential volunteer. She takes on the hard jobs and she gets them done with a smile.

As executive assistant to AOC Solutions President and CEO Allen Cage, Edna’s daily to-do list is a long one. Yet she’s always willing to make time for us because she shares Allen’s passion for helping at-risk youth.

Edna is persuasive and tenacious, as you know if you were at last year’s Challenge at Trump National charity tournament where she got 100 percent of the golfers to buy tickets for the 50/50 raffle.

Regardless of the task – whether behind the scenes or on the front lines – Edna is always there to answer to call for YouthQuest.


Prototype Productions CEO Joe Travez with first 3DThinkLink class during Vocational Orientation in 2013

Joe Travez with first 3DThinkLink class in 2013

Prototype Productions, Inc. in Ashburn, Virginia has hosted tours for our students during every 3D ThinkLink class cycle since the project began in 2013.

These Vocational Orientation visits show the students how 3D design and printing is used in a wide variety of career fields. At PPI, they get to see all the steps in the prototyping process and learn about the importance of innovative thinking and problem solving at work.

CEO Joe Travez makes the experience even more valuable by sharing his personal story with the students. It’s inspirational for these at-risk teens to learn about how he turned away from gangs, embraced education and family, and built a thriving high-tech business from scratch. His message about making smart decisions and going the extra mile to achieve his goals is exactly what our students need to hear.

Because of their consistent support of YouthQuest’s mission, we are pleased to recognize PPI as this year’s 3D ThinkLink Strategic Partner.


Derrick Campana hosts Vocational Orientation visit to Animal Orthocare in April 2015

Derrick Campana hosts 3D ThinkLink Vocational Orientation tour

We discovered Derrick Campana through our strategic partner, 3D Systems, because they worked together to invent revolutionary 3D-printed legs for a disabled dog named Derby. (Click here to see a video about Derby.)

We’re fortunate to have Derrick’s Animal Orthocare, one of the few businesses in the world that specializes in orthotics and prosthetics for animals, located just a few miles from our headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia.

Animal Orthocare is a favorite stop on Vocational Orientation tours for our 3D ThinkLink students. During a recent visit, they enjoyed Derrick’s hands-on demonstration of making plaster casts of limbs and saw how he used 3D scanning and printing to create customized parts for prosthetics.

Since then, Derrick has been busy developing new mobility devices for animals. He even traveled to Thailand in July to help two elephants that were maimed by land mines. We can’t wait to learn more when we take the next group of Maryland and DC students to Animal Orthocare for Vocational Orientation in October.


Awards were presented during YouthQuest’s annual VIP Reception, at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Tysons Corner, Virginia. We thank Fleming’s Operating Partner Michael Garcia and his staff for hosting an outstanding event. Here are more photos from the evening.

3D ThinkLink Initiative: More Than 200 Students Reached

3D ThinkLink graduates from Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, December 2014

What began with a few teens at one school has grown into a program that’s brought the magic of 3D printing to more than 200 young people coast to coast.

As soon as we launched our 3D ThinkLink pilot project at Maryland’s Freestate ChalleNGe Academy in early 2013, we started to see why it’s such a great teaching tool – especially for at-risk youth.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate Sherquana Adams holds one of her 3D-printed creations in YouthQuest's 3D ThinkLink immersion lab August 2014

SCYCA graduate Sherquana Adams holds one of her 3D-printed creations

In more than two years of providing 3D design and printing classes, we’ve seen how the experience helps develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, encourages creativity and builds confidence.

Most of the students we work with have made decisions that led them down the wrong path and they see themselves as failures. Our classes help them understand that failure is not final; it’s just a step toward improvement and, ultimately, success. The software and hardware we use make it easy for them to try a project, analyze mistakes, make corrections and print again until they reach their goal.

Twenty-five Cadets from the Maryland, District of Columbia and South Carolina ChalleNGe Academies completed 3D ThinkLink training last month (see below), bringing our total of ChalleNGe Program grads so far to 111.

In March, more than 70 students from across the United States and Canada took part in our 3D printing workshops at the 41st Annual National Society of Black Engineers Convention in Anaheim, California.

Learning Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software at Boys & Girls Club summer camp at Culmore Character Club in Fairfax County, Virginia July 2015

Learning 3D design at Boys & Girls Club summer camp

This month, we’re reaching dozens of kids in Northern Virginia for the first time by working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington to provide summer camp classes at the Culmore Character Club.

Another way we’re bringing 3D ThinkLink to more people is by making our curriculum available for teachers and students to buy online. On July 1, we wrapped up a crowdfunding project on Kickstarter that will cover the cost of creating the curriculum packages, which include Moment of Inspiration 3D modeling software, lesson plans and instructional videos.

Our goal is to give at-risk kids the tools they need to become successful adults. That includes academic and vocational training, along with developing the life skills that will keep them on track no matter what career path they choose. We don’t expect most our 3D ThinkLink students to end up in jobs that directly involve 3D design and printing, but we do expect the thinking skills and positive attitudes they develop in class will help them get ahead in any kind of job.

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann with Adonis Gonzales, 3D ThinkLInk graduate from Freestate ChalleNGe Academy in June 2013

YouthQuest Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann with Adonis Gonzales

For example, there’s Adonis Gonzales, who was in our first class at Freestate. He always wanted to be a master electrician and now he’s in the second year of an apprenticeship program. In a recent interview with the Connection Newspapers, he talked about how he uses the problem solving skills he learned in our class to work through obstacles on the job.

Adonis also took our “failure is not final” message to heart. He didn’t pass his GED exam the first time he took it – or the second time. But he didn’t give up and he learned from his mistakes until, on the third try, he earned his GED.

Adonis is a remarkable young man and he’s going to do well in life. Stories like his encourage us to keep expanding the 3D ThinkLInk Initiative so we can touch the lives of more at-risk youth.


Congratulations to Our Latest Graduates

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy: Dishon Bailey, Chris Foster, Tyler Garcia, Jaya Geter, Aaliyah Lilly, LaKristopher McCoy, Joshua Milligan, Shiann O’Shea, Jared Pearsall, Craig Shipman
Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy: Angela Bernfeld, Tyeshia Blackmond, Dylan Cooper, Ronnell Dillard, Steve James, Kyla Joyner, Darian Moore, Andrey Ortiz-Castillo, Angel Patterson
Freestate ChalleNGe Academy: Maurice Allen, Philbert Fisher, Benjamin Illioff, Johnathan Lainez, TreVaughn McBride, Maxim Pine

Here are some photo highlights of their 3D ThinkLink experience.

Meet Bria Toussaint, Our Summer Intern

YouthQuest summer intern Bria Toussaint

This summer is going to be the busiest ever for YouthQuest, so we’re pleased to have Bria Toussaint working with us for the next six weeks.

Bria, who will graduate from Spelman College next year, has already accomplished a great deal in the field of youth-focused nonprofits.

She is the Co-Founder and CEO of GRL-PWR, a 501(c)(3) organization that empowers young girls through activities that promote self-esteem, goal setting and service to others.

During the first half of this year, she took part in an exchange program at Stanford University, where she worked with law students and professors to develop creative outreach solutions to the problem of human trafficking.

Bria Toussaint and Royal Phillips led GRL-PWR mentor training for cadets at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy in May, 2013

Bria and Royal bring GRL-PWR to SCYCA

Bria came aboard as our summer intern just a few days ago, but her connection to YouthQuest dates back to her time at Freedom High School in Chantilly, Virginia, where she and classmate Royal Phillips created GRL-PWR. They entered their project in the 2012 Step Up Loudoun Youth Competition and won the first-place prize of $1,000 provided by YouthQuest.

Our Co-Founder and President Lynda Mann was one of the contest judges that year and was so impressed by Bria and Royal that she offered to help them take GRL-PWR to other states.  The Foundation sent them to the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy in May, 2013 to teach a group of at-risk young women to be GRL-PWR mentors.

Bria’s summer to-do list includes assisting with our 3D ThinkLink classes for a Boys & Girls Club summer camp in Fairfax County, preparing for our annual charity golf tournament and VIP Reception, supporting 3D ThinkLink immersion lab week and teacher training, and delivering rewards for backers who made pledges to our successful 3D ThinkLink curriculum project on Kickstarter.

We’re confident Bria’s internship with us will be a mutually beneficial experience. She’s gaining valuable hands-on experience in the day-to-day operation of a nonprofit organization and we’re gaining valuable insights from a smart, enthusiastic young woman who’s already making her mark in the nonprofit world.

Essay Is ‘Clear Winner’ in Scholarship Competition

YouthQuest 3D ThinkLink esssay contest winner Aaliyah Lilly of South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy with quote: I am excited for the future"

Aaliyah Lilly, a South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduate, has earned a $500 scholarship for writing an outstanding essay about what she experienced in the YouthQuest Foundation’s 3D ThinkLink class.

“I often had troubles in school understanding key points, but since being a part of 3D printing, my way of thinking has gradually changed,” she wrote.

Cadet Aaliyah Lilly receives her essay contest scholarship from YouthQuest Secretary Bill Hall at SCYCA graduation June 10.

Cadet Aaliyah Lilly receives her award from YouthQuest Secretary Bill Hall at SCYCA graduation June 10.

Aaliyah, 17, is one of 25 Cadets at National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academies who completed the 3D ThinkLink course during the latest class cycle. In the process of learning the basics of 3D design and printing, the students developed better critical thinking and problem solving skills.

3D ThinkLink training also provided a creative outlet, Aaliyah said, and introduced her to “the next generation’s technology.”

Aaliyah will receive her scholarship money when she enrolls in a higher education or trade school program. She’s interested in studying Media Communications and Hospitality Management and aspires to become a Public Affairs Specialist in the military.

But first, she wants to share what she’s learned with others at SCYCA.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy Cadets LaKrisopher McCoy, Aaliyah Lilly and Shiann O'Shea visit 3D Systems headquarters for Vocational Orientation in April.

SCYCA Cadets LaKrisopher McCoy, Aaliyah Lilly and Shiann O’Shea visit 3D Systems headquarters for Vocational Orientation.

“After graduating Youth ChalleNGe Academy I plan return as a peer mentor to encourage those who are in the position I was in,” she wrote.

The competition was judged by YouthQuest supporter John Gilstrap, the New York Times bestselling author whose new thriller Against All Enemies comes out in July. He declared Aaliyah’s essay to be the “clear winner.”

“While several were very well written, this one reached beyond the introspection of how the program changed their lives to embrace how the lessons learned can then be passed along to a new group of future students,” he said.

You can read Aaliyah’s essay at the bottom of this page. Here are excerpts from essays some of her fellow students entered in the contest.

“Back home, not too many people believed in me and I often heard what I could not or would not do, but this program has given me more power to prove them wrong. … Thanks to 3D it has made me a better artist and very creative, I would have never known I could be so passionate and it has been very empowering to develop such skills. I have put a lot of hard work into this program and I have really enjoyed being a part of 3D.” – Tyeshia Blackmond, 17, Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, Washington, DC

“Since I joined the 3D printing class I have learned that everything does not come out right the first time. I have learned that it takes patience, hard work and dedication to have a successful print. For example the first item we made in 3D was a key chain. I believed it would take no longer than 20 to 30 minutes but it took up to 3 to 4 classes to completely finish because of all the shapes and lines needed. I wanted my project to be perfect so after every print I looked closely at the key chain. When the outcome was not right or did not look presentable to me I would have to fix it. This class also gave me motivation to stay in Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy as a Cadet. Learning 3D was hard but it is worth it.” – Ronnell Dillard, 17, CGYCA

I knew that I was going to learn something new, but I was not sure what it would be about or how challenging it would be. Once I was in the program, my perception and outlook changed, dramatically. I recently saw a quote that said, “Don’t let your fear of breaking things keep you from trying new experiments. That’s how you learn about the real world.” Now that I’ve gotten an opportunity to practice using the program and learning from it, I see that it is a fun and addictive program that can and is being used in daily society… And if I break something, it’s OK. I’ll print it again.” – TreVaughn McBride, 17, Freestate ChalleNGe Academy, Maryland


How 3D Printing Has Changed My Life

by Aaliyah M. Lilly, age 17
South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy

I believe that you must be willing to change your perspective to seek ultimate opportunities. Prior to coming into South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy I had no intentions of participating in any extracurricular activities, but I found interest in 3D Printing and Systems. 3D printing has been an outlet I’ve used to be creative while also gaining knowledge of the next generation’s technology. Since the start of the course I have learned not only the concept of 3D printing, but how to come with up an idea, design it, and turn it into reality. I often had troubles in school understanding key points, but since being a part of 3D printing, my way of thinking has gradually changed. I am very grateful to be able to express myself now through my work.

After graduating Youth ChalleNGe Academy I plan return as a peer mentor to encourage those who are in the position I was in. After that, I plan to attend AmeriCorps. However, my overall goal is to enlist into the military as a Public Affairs Specialist while majoring in Media Communications and Hospitality Management. I plan to take the skills I learned from 3D printing and utilize them in my personal life. I hope to design personalized 3D print items that will provide another stream of income as an entrepreneur.

One of my ultimate life goals is to be able to help my father financially by becoming self-sufficient. Growing up in a single parent household, my father has been the most influential person in life. I watched him struggle to raise me as a young female. I believe that everything I do is in honor of my father.

He instilled in me knowledge and gave me the guidance that I will need to be independent. I am excited for the future and thankful for what 3D printing has given me.

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