The YouthQuest program has evolved over 12 years of serving students and through those years one thing has remained true – the dedication YouthQuest staff have to their students.
“We have never wavered in our commitment to our students,” says Willie Buford, associate program director of YouthQuest. “Our team has continued through many challenges to work hard and show up for those we serve, and I am proud to say that I am able to lead this group of dedicated educators.”
YouthQuest launched in the fall of 2010 with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation at 15 elementary and middle schools including Flint Community Schools, Carman Ainsworth Community Schools, Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools, and Montrose Community Schools.
The program was originally overseen by Rhetta Hunyady, who has since retired from the Flint & Genesee Group. With her efforts, she helped grow the program to what it is today, and a lot of things have changed since it started.
“Technology has changed since I first started, especially in the way in which we collect data,” says Annetta Williams, who currently works as a program data assistant for YouthQuest. “The process for tracking data has streamlined over the years and is a big improvement from where we started.”
Through collecting data, YouthQuest has been able to adapt to meet the needs of the students it serves, as well as continually improve the program over time. Lead learning guide Dwanda Taber says that as YouthQuest evolved it has only gotten better, and she credits that to a culture of continual improvement.
“YouthQuest has a good practice of reflection and growth,” says Taber. “When I look at YouthQuest, that is really where we excel with the mindset of doing it better and not minding the growing pains.”
Throughout the years, YouthQuest has seen a variety of leaders at all levels, many of which grew with the program starting as a learning guide. One of which, LaQuanda Kimbrough, site manager, has seen a lot over the 10 years she has been with the organization.
“When I first started, I thought it was so hard. I was going to school while working and at the time we had to write our own lesson plans,” says Kimbrough. “Luckily, we grew and had Bethany Robertson and others who started writing our plans and building our e-library with high-quality, teacher-approved plans that we still access today.”
Although Kimbrough always wanted to be an educator, she found something special when she started working in the afterschool space.
“I knew I didn’t want to teach day school; the kids don’t have the same freedom and as a teacher, you have to be strict,” says Kimbrough. “In afterschool, I can let my hair down and we can have fun while we learn.”
For other longtime educators in the program, having fun has been a notable element of YouthQuest since its beginning. Rodrick Richardson, learning guide for YouthQuest, moved over from a previous afterschool program when YouthQuest launched. He has fond memories of the beginning of the program.
“The beginning was a lot of development and a lot of fun,” says Richardson. “I remember we used to have professional development sessions with 150 people in the building where we were having fun and engaging while grasping the information we needed to help develop the youth of tomorrow.”
Throughout the last 12 years, YouthQuest has been proud to serve the students of Flint as a safe place for learning, enrichment, and fun.
YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.