Meet our new YouthSpark Youth Advisors!

By: Yvonne Thomas, Global Director of YouthSpark

Last week we announced big updates to our Microsoft YouthSpark initiative as we cross our two year milestone, and today we're announcing the YouthSpark Youth Advisors, as a way for us to seek ideas, feedback and insight directly from an amazing group of young people and ensure YouthSpark continues to meet the needs of youth around the world.

Eighteen youth will serve as YouthSpark Youth Advisors in their home countries and in global activities.  They will share their perspectives and challenge our ideas to help us create programs, partnerships and resources that continue to meet the needs of youth around the world.  Their involvement will be especially important as we expand technology education to turn the tide of rising youth unemployment.

Meet our YouthSpark Youth Advisors from around the globe:

David Casillas – Mexico

David Casillas starting developing software as a student through Microsoft Dreamspark. As his coding skills grew, he began to compete in Imagine Cup, the Microsoft global student technology contest. He won competition after competition, and represented Mexico in the final global showcase. After Imagine Cup, David went on to start his own enterprise—Nyx Technology—to develop multi-platform software that support health issues in his country. His work has been used in his local municipalities and for Mexico's Ministry of Education.

Francesco Mancino - Italy

A passionate social entrepreneur, Francesco participated in Startup Revolutionary Road, a Microsoft YouthSpark program which provides tools and resources for young entrepreneurs. Francesco founded his own ICT startup—Leevia—a photography driven, crowd-sourced, online platform for petitions and causes. He has participated in several entrepreneurship programs and has won numerous awards for his ideas and presentations, including first place for "Best ICT Idea" at the Global Social Venture competition. 

Genevieve L’Esperance - Canada

Genevieve is a Computer Science & Molecular Biology major at McGill University. She learned to code at a young age and quickly recognized that she was a minority in the male-dominated field. Her goal is to break down the perception barrier so that girls look at the computer science profession more objectively as a career choice. She went on to get Microsoft certifications in various technologies and skills, become a Windows 8 Ambassador for her college campus, and has devoted countless hours to teaching programming to girls. She hopes to show them the doors that computer science has opened for her, and that it’s a field not just for boys. 

Jie Ren - China

Jie is committed to learning and applying new technologies and sharing these skills with others. Through his work as the program director for the Rabbit King Research Center for Poverty Alleviation (RKRC) and a trainer for the Microsoft Youth Community Center project, Jie has helped youth and rural families in his community use technology to start a small business in rabbit farming. Jie has a Master’s of Science in International Management from the University of London and a Bachelor’s of Science in Retail Management and Food Quality from Harper Adams University.

Johnnie Lovett - United States

Johnnie has come a long way from handling carts at the local grocery store in high school. He participated in YouthSpark partner program Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) to learn how to become an effective entrepreneur, and then with his grocery store income, created his own startup clothing line: Fresh Connection Brand. He’s worked with NBA Superstar Dwyane Wade, as well as Microsoft YouthSpark and NFTE on collaborative brand and apparel projects. He is the inaugural recipient of Bill Sharp’s The Future of Advertising award and now an Assistant Strategic Planner for Commonground Marketing, an emerging ad firm in Chicago, IL.

Joshua Uwadiae - United Kingdom

A high school drop-out and formerly incarcerated youth, Joshua found a new path for his future through an apprenticeship. He received training and education through the QA Apprenticeship program, a part of the Microsoft YouthSparkprogram in the UK. He achieved four Microsoft Technology Associate Certifications and was recognized as the Microsoft Apprentice of the Year runner up in 2013. Joshua is now an apprenticeship ambassador, motivating youth to continue their education and consider an apprenticeship path, and proudly holds a full-time job as an IT Manager for eCourier.

Kiho Park - Japan

Kiho is a young social entrepreneur in Osaka. He cares passionately about the lives of underserved youth in Japan and created DxP (Dream times Possibility), to help impoverished Japanese youth tackle career and social inclusion issues. His nonprofit, a Microsoft YouthSpark partner since 2012, provides IT skills training and work experience for students attending high school only part-time or during the night time. The skills training has proven effective for helping youth to learn important skill sets for future careers, enhance their self-esteem, and helping them move out of poverty.

Manolis Labovas - Greece

Manolis Labovas is the Project Manager of, a Microsoft Youthspark Initiative which has received distinction at the European CSR Awards 2013 and is one of the pledges of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs of the European Commission. Manolis has organized several large scale conferences and campaigns, including the “Get Online Week 2014” campaign in Greece. He is also a member of the Management team of YouRock, a dynamic new social media network available in 15 languages helping young people to identify their hidden work skills from their activities.

Mary Mwende - Kenya

Mary grew up in Mombasa, Kenya. Her circumstances motivated her to study diligently and she was one of the first girls to join the Global Give Back Circle. Her unwavering desire to succeed and give back have led to her to share the stage with U.S. President Bill Clinton, secure a four-year full scholarship to the American University of Dubai (AUD), and become the first African woman to be elected President of the Student Government at AUD.  Having graduated with honors, Mary is now enrolled as a Clinton Scholar doing her Graduate (MBA) studies on a full scholarship, mentors at risk youth and continues to support her home community.

Michael Teoh – Malaysia

Michael Teoh is the Founder-Strategist of Thriving Talents, a company that trains students and workers in companies and universities to succeed in life and work. He is an awardee of PRESTIGE's “Top 40 Under 40” Awards for Malaysians and was recognized as one of the world's leading enterprising youth by the Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2011. Michael is also the Honorary Advisor for Youth in Economics & Entrepreneurship Development for the World Youth Parliament based in Geneva, Switzerland. He currently consults for start-up companies in education, public safety, online media, food & beverage and tourism industries, and is also co-author of Potential Matrix™, a book focused on personal development for youth.

Rafael Regh – Germany

Rafael is a young app developer who is incredibly passionate about technology and Microsoft. At only 15, he became the youngest-ever Microsoft Student Partner in Germany. He cares deeply about the youth tech skills gap and teaches young people in his community how to code in C# and build mobile applications. He has also developed a number of smart phone applications -- from Mensa games to the official Windows 8 application for the German Parliament.

Raneem Medhat - Egypt

Raneem is a senior at Cairo University, studying Computer Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering. She has dedicated her time volunteering to help student associations, schools and social entrepreneurship startups with marketing, technology education and project management.  Raneem has worked on the Aspire Woman University program, by leading 24 University clubs nationwide, reaching more than 4,000 girls, while also developing a website that supports women entrepreneurs in Egypt.

Roxana Rugina - France

She struggled after graduate school to find work—a common problem for many talented young people in today’s job market—so she attended an intensive six-month boot camp called Simplon, a YouthSpark nonprofit partner, where she learned how to code, write a business plan, and even create her own apps. She went on to co-found Simplon Romania and is currently working to prepare the next generation with the necessary skills in order to gain 21st century jobs.

Samantha Bustamante - United States

Samantha immigrated to America from Mexico City at the age of 13. Her mother was homeless, single and brought her to the US in search of better opportunities for her daughter. Samantha discovered Year Up and participated in the YouthSpark partner program as a stepping stone out of poverty. She went through the program’s intensive business training for six months and then was placed in a high profile internship, afterwards securing a full-time job at CitiGroup. Now a quality insurance analyst, Samantha is committed to inspiring others through mentorship and sharing her success stories so others can find a way out of poverty.

Varun Kashyap - India

Varun is a social entrepreneur creating technology to reach communities and drive social change. He was a Global Shaper nominees by the World Economic Forum and currently a Young India Fellow, a leadership development program by Ashoka University in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Carleton College and Sciences Po. He co-founded LetsEndorse, a crowd-endorsing platform that engages NGOs, businesses, citizens and governments to make change happen. Prior to this, he founded Suvidha Bazaar after graduating in 2010, a supply chain initiative for fresh farm produce benefitting both farmers and end consumers. He is currently a Alexander Von Humboldt & German Chancellor Fellow, a fellowship for tomorrow’s leaders awarded by the German Chancellor.

Wanderson Skrock - Brazil

Born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Wanderson grew up to be a troubled teen, incarcerated twice before age 17. The second prison stint changed his life: he took computer courses from YouthSpark partner CDI, where he learned basic typing, how to use a computer, and productivity tools like Microsoft Office. He went on to teach others how to gain digital literacy skills and today, he is the Social Educator at the Center for Digital Inclusion in Rio de Janeiro teaching young people and inmates at a local prison technology skills so that they too can take a different path.