WOW! What an amazing journey thus far. I have been living a life I truly love. My life is so exciting for it includes being leader of an awesome organization, Knowledge Quest (KQ). Over the last fifteen years, I have noticed numerous “quests;” from NailQuest to UtiliQuest to LaserQuest! But in the end, there is only one “quest” located in my heart and that’s Knowledge Quest. The one situated in a culturally rich, urban pocket of South Memphis. It is the one born out of a praying heart and a soul searching for purpose after tragedy. It is the one whose program model was formulated out of my past experiences as a wayward inner city teenager who lost his best friend due to youth gun violence. It is the one that was nurtured on the rugged terrain of the Fowler Homes Public Housing Development. It is the one headquartered in that same neighborhood—the one I grew up in—the same one where I live, work and worship in to this day.
According to zip code data, it is a community filled with challenges; but, from my vantage point, it is a community filled with opportunity. It is most evident in the hopes and dreams located in the bright eyes of the children I encounter everyday. These are the students served by our Knowledge Quest. Over the years I have watched many fractured-winged eagles soar. Our credentialed educators continue to instill the power of knowledge. They have been energized with a vision… “to transform lives by expanding minds”… and equipped with a mission… “to vigorously equip youth to maximize their potential through intellectual and character development” -- and effective they have been. We have watched students’ grades ‘hockey stick’ up as many as four letter grades. We have been humbled by tearful-eyed parents thanking us because their children “can now read.” We have celebrated over pizza with youth whose behavior was formerly labeled as “anti-social” who are now members of Foster’s Finest—a cherished group of achievers who attain perfect attendance and exhibit positive behavior. These are the priceless experiences, too numerous to count, and in response to which, I can only say…WOW!
Today, our organization has grown from passionate thoughts to a youth and community development organization that has touched thousands of lives responding to the needs and desires of youth within our neighborhood and surrounding community. We serve high-risk youth who primarily reside in the 38126 and 38106 zip codes of Memphis, TN. Our open enrollment, non-fee based efforts promote academic excellence, positive social behavior and healthy lifestyles in an afterschool setting. Through an innovative, hands-on approach to learning (“Adventure Education”), students develop genuine interest in academic subjects and make behavior adjustments where necessary.
But in addition to WOW!—there is another response, and that is THANK YOU! It is with much gratitude and a whole lot of humility that I accept your designation as a ‘Champion of Change’ as we work to continue to work toward the prevention of youth violence in our community. It is most encouraging to be honored among the many sheroes and heroes finding passion in similar efforts across the United States. Thanks to all of the volunteers, corporate partners, foundations and private donors who have invested time, talent and treasure toward our cause. Thanks to all of our parents who contribute five hours of volunteer service every quarter with their children on our campus. Thanks to all of our very talented and dedicated staff members who likewise find passion in this work. But most important of all, thanks to all of the incredible young lives of Knowledge Quest and youth across the nation who give us purpose.
Marlon T. Foster is the Founder and Executive Director of Knowledge Quest, a youth and community development organization.