Meet the Staff
Justin has been involved with Youthlinc since 2008 when he joined the Thailand team as a mentor. Since then, he has been on a total of 16 Youthlinc trips, including a multi-time team leader to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Rwanda, Peru, Kenya, Fiji, and Madagascar. He has lived abroad for several years, including Australia, South Korea, Egypt, and Vietnam.
He started Youthlinc’s Global Community Leadership program in 2017 in partnership with Utah State University and Utah Valley University, to integrate in Youthlinc’s community-engaged service model with the academic backgrounds of professors to organize and run study abroad trips for upper division credit. Through this program, Justin has been able to develop additional partnerships in Rwanda, Colombia, Cuba, Vietnam, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Kenya, Peru, and Fiji.
Justin was selected by the Board or Directors to become Executive Director in 2016 when our Founder, Judy Zone, retired after 17 years. Before becoming the Executive Director, he was Real Life Director and International Service Director at Youthlinc and a high school teacher for language arts, social studies, economics, and business management.
In 2023, Justin was named the Citizen Diplomat of the Year by US Global Ties, the countries oldest and largest citizen diplomacy network, due to her personal and professional dedication to building a more peaceful, prosperous world through international exchange and by engaging himself and others in citizen-related work in foreign policy. He is also a member of the Rotary Club of Millcreek, having served as club president, foundation chair, service chair, and held a district role as Rotaract chair.
Justin has an International Business degree from Westminster College, an English degree from the University of Utah, and a Master’s of Teaching degree from Westminster College.
Service Year Director
Shannon’s involvement with Youthlinc began in 2015 as a parent of a Youthlinc student. Watching the growth and development in her own daughter ignited the dedication she has for Youthlinc and it’s mission. She has since watched a similar passion for service grow in hundreds of students as well as in three more of her own children.
Service as a way of life is something she is passionate about and finding an organization that shares these same beliefs has been important to her. Shannon believes what sets Youthlinc apart from other organizations is its local service component. She believes that local service is where lifetime humanitarians are born.
Shannon graduated from the University of Utah in and received her MBA in 2013. She is a lifelong learner and continues to explore new ways she can learn and grow in her life, and is currently completing her Master of Social Work at the University of Utah.
International Service Director
Jordan has been involved in Youthlinc since 2013. Since then she has been involved in 10 Youthlinc Trips. She started as a student going to Kenya in 2013 and since then hasn’t been able to walk away from Youthlinc. She has been apart of service years to each of our service year sites and can’t wait to keep adding more in the future. One of her favorite things about Youthlinc is their commitment to work with and follow up with communities to find their needs and wants. We really listed and do our best to meet their expectations. Jordan is thrilled to continue to develop and grow the partnerships we have around the World as ISD.
Service has embedded itself in her life both Locally and Internationally. She has always had amazing examples of service in her family and was raised to watch for a need to act. Youthlinc opened so many doors to other service opportunities and now she gets to be involved in even more with friends and family. It has continually taught her about not only herself but about the world around her. Jordan’s favorite part of the service year is the relationship you can build with those you are working with both on your team and in the communities we serve. She believes that service brings people together and celebrates differences and change. The best way to see the world is to work hard side by side with the people of it to make it a little better.
Out of the office you will probably catch Jordan either outside, or gathered around a table playing board games with Friends and Family.
Real Life Director
From the first time she heard about Youthlinc, Melissa knew it was something she needed to be involved with. Melissa’s journey with Youthlinc began in 2014 as a Real Life volunteer at Historic Scott School and a participant on the Thailand team. Since then, Melissa has taken part in Youthlinc as a Real Life Intern, Real Life Assistant Director, Global Community Leadership Program Assistant, Operations Manager, Team Leader, Bookkeeper, and now the Real Life Director.
Locally, Melissa has volunteered with various associations including the Utah Food Bank, the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, Promise South Salt Lake, and RESULTS. It is through these opportunities that her passion for service was born. She hopes that through her continued support of these organizations, and her involvement with Real Life, she will be able to continue to foster Youthlinc’s mission of creating lifetime humanitarians in today’s youth that will continue to benefit the community for many years to come.
Melissa graduated from Westminster College with her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health. In her free time she enjoys skiing, yoga, reading, and playing with her dog, Honey.
Allie has been involved with Youthlinc since 2014 when she joined as a student on the Nepal June team, where she fell in love with the program. She came back and has since been to Kenya, Thailand, and Peru with Youthlinc. She continued her involvement in Youthlinc as an Alum Leader, Assistant Team Leader and Mentor, Assistant International Service Director, Real Life Intern, Real Life Assistant Director, and now as the Office Manager.
Service has been a huge part of Allie’s life from a young age, and she is passionate about helping others cultivate and develop a love of service no matter their age. Allie loves Youthlinc’s mission and how it meets each individual where they are at. Her favorite thing about Youthlinc is its power to transform and change lives through service.
Associate Real Life Director
Hay Soe is a Karen refugee originally from Myanmar but grew up in Mae La Refugee Camp, Thailand. Since being resettled, Hay Soe has been a part of Youthlinc's Real Life program since 2010 at Hser Ner Moo Community Center. Since then, Hay Soe has been a part of Youthlinc first as a Real Life Intern at West High School, Cottonwood High School, and Hser Ner Moo Community Center. The kids call him Happy because he is HAPPY!
Hay Soe is passionate about serving his local community in Utah and the community back in Myanmar who still face ethnic cleansing. He believes nothing is more important to peace and prosperity than being human, and service is a great way to bring out the human within ourselves and those around us. He has been involved with organizations such as Bridging Border and New American Neighbor and is why Hay Soe is working at Youthlinc; be a part of organizations that bring out the human in each other.
Hay Soe graduated from the University of Utah with his Bachelor's Degrees in Philosophy and Social Entrepreneurship. Outside of Youthlinc, Hay Soe is working on building his social enterprise, Pax-Amare, off the ground to lift human spirits through Nature while alleviating poverty among the indigenous Karen Hilltribes of Thailand and Myanmar.
Global Community Leadership Director
Dr. Jessica Roueche
Jessica's journey with Youthlinc as a Humanitarian started on the Peru 2011-2012 team with Britnie Powell. After her first year with Youthlinc, she fell in love with the organization and connecting to communities. Jessica continued volunteering each year after the 2012 Peru trip and has participated in Service Year programs to Peru, Vietnam, Kenya, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Jessica participated in the first GCL launch in 2017 with Utah State University and has team led GCL programs as an adjunct professor to Cambodia, Kenya, and India.
Jessica has a bachelor's degree in Exercise Science, a Master's degree in International Development, and a Doctorate's degree in Educational Leadership. She is a licensed Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is a certified Breathwork Practitioner. Needless to say, you might agree that Jessica likes to learn...a lot.
Jessica currently teaches at Utah State University as an adjunct professor in the Kinesiology and Health Science Department. Jessica loves to read and connect to nature through hiking, hunting, or collecting herbs. She is passionate about traveling, playing the guitar, and enjoys a wide range of music genres.
Marketing & Communications Director
Sarah has been involved with Youthlinc since 2016 when she was part of the Thailand June team. Little did she know it would spark the fire within her to serve, travel, connect, and tell stories of people and cultures everywhere. On her trip to Thailand and the following year to Madagascar, she took her camera with the mission in mind to create images and videos to bridge our two worlds. After pursuing a career in photography, she felt fully drawn to come back and participate in Youthlinc.
After much collaboration, Sarah took a non-traditional route with service year. Working as an onsite photographer and content creator in India, Vietnam, Nepal, Cambodia, and Thailand, she was able to create imagery and stories to help communicate our vision and purpose here at Youthlinc. Upon returning, she has now joined the Youthlinc staff as our Marketing and Communications director.
As the Marketing and Communications Director, Sarah oversees social media, website, design, recruitment, YHA, and the Youthlincer publication.
Out of the office you’ll find Sarah reading, taking photos, skiing, traveling, cooking, and pursuing her school work in her Graphic Design major.
Meet our Board of Directors
A note from LeeAnn Meads, Youthlinc Board President:
As we conclude our 2023 year and look forward to 2024 it is important to recognize all those that have worked so hard to continue the legacy of Youthlinc. We have a tremendous staff that shoulders heavy loads and does it with enthusiasm, kindness, creativity, and optimism.
All programs are continuing to rebound from the challenges of the pandemic era. We are adjusting and working hard to gain momentum as the new paradigm necessitates innovative problem solving to move programs in positive directions.
Service Year, Real Life, and Global Community Leadership are thriving again!
2024 look out! We are going to move and shake this year!
Founder's Story by Judy Zone
When my daughter graduated from high school, she knew she came into a few thousand dollars that I had put aside for her since she was born. She said the nicest thing to me when I asked her what she wanted to use the money for. She said she would like to take a trip with me! She wanted to go on safari, which seriously was not anything that had ever crossed my mind.
Because it is so expensive to travel to Africa, we went with a Kenyan owned safari company, and fortunately got to spend as much time with the people as with the animals. Because it was a mother-daughter trip, we had a lot of time to process the information. Kenyans speak English, so there was not a communication barrier to understanding a completely different culture.
My daughter, Sara, had always been a service minded person. She and her friends volunteered every Sunday morning through their last two years in high school feeding the homeless under the viaduct in Salt Lake City.
As a secondary and college teacher, it was fascinating to me during our trip to see a young person make the connections between local needs and international needs. People in Kenya went hungry- and no one was feeding them under the viaduct. There was no free clinic to go to when they were sick. But the Kenyans were so happy — just to be alive each day. It was a remarkably lesson my daughter learned, and a remarkably eye-opening experience for both us.
When we returned, I was simply obsessed with figuring out a way that other young people could see the connection between local and international service. Slowly over the next year, the idea for the Youthlinc Service Year emerged. Because I am a lifetime educator, with M.Ed and other graduate work in education, the Service Year would always have a curriculum based in research in what works to engage students, create leaders, and lifetime humanitarians.
From 1999-2004, Youthlinc had no paid employees, just a growing group of volunteers. We still have hundreds of volunteers – our loyal Service Year alums and their parents – but now we also have an Executive Director, Office Manager, a Local Service Director, International Service Director, a Real Life Program Director, and a Community Liaison/Assistant Program Director.
Our volunteers help us in every aspect of running our organization, from fundraising to office work. We could not exist without them. In fact, the time contributed by just the volunteer leadership in our Service Year and Real Life afterschool teen mentoring program adds up to 10 FTE employees!
Our Service Year has grown steadily. The first year, 1999-2000, we had 20 participants and served a site near Mombasa, Kenya.
In 2000-2001, 30 participants went to Ngala School, in Nakuru, Kenya. In this year, Youthlinc began its partnership with Utah Rotary clubs.
2001-2002, there were approximately 36 participants each in Service Year teams to Kenya and Mexico. In this year, we began a partnership with the Special Education, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy programs at the University of Utah.
In the 2002-2003 service year, we added our Peru site: three programs with approximately 36 participants.
Soon after, we partnered with the University of Utah College of Nursing, U of U Health Sciences LEAP, Utah State University, and Westminster College.
In 2005, our Utah Local Service Directory was created as a magazine – service sites recommended by our alumni to incoming Service Year students searching for a quality local service site where they could contribute hands on service. Over the years, the magazine was distributed to every service club in the state. Now, our Local Service Directory is an online resource to quality service sites where youth can volunteer.
Also in 2005, we began our statewide annual search for Utah’s Young Humanitarian, awarding that individual who excels at giving back with the state’s largest service scholarship: $5,000, with significant runner up awards.
In 2008, we partnered with the Rotary Club of Patong Beach, Thailand to open a site in that nation.
In 2010, we opened a new site in Cambodia, partnering with the Angkor Rotary Club of Siem Reap. The following year, we changed partnership to Sustainable Cambodia, a Rotary-funded NGO in Pursat, Cambodia.
Also, in 2010, we kicked off our Real Life peer mentoring program with Hser Ner Moo Center in South Salt Lake. It is our flagship local service program, providing hands on mentoring, educational, and cultural exchange activities planned by students for students. Currently, we partner with a variety of organizations to provide programming at 12 sites.
In 2011, we opened a new site in Guatemala, and started a new partnership with Sustainable Cambodia.
In 2012, we opened two new international sites, partnering with Solidarités Jeunesses (SJ) Vietnam, and Ak’tenamit in Guatemala.
In 2014, we began partnerships with People for Guatemala and the Rotary Club of Kathmandu Metro in Nepal.
In 2015, we began partnership with Madagascar Cooperative Foundation and the Rotary Club Antananarivo Ambohitsorohitra in Antananarivo, Madagascar. We also changed partnership in Thailand from the Rotary Club of Patong Beach to Travel to Teach in Chiang Mai.
In 2016, our Founder, Judy Zone, retired and the Board of Directors selected Justin Powell as the new Executive Director. Additionally, the Global Community Leadership program started, partnering Youthlinc with Utah State University for a study abroad service trip for credit. We also expanded operations in Thailand to partner with Glovolex in Trat, Thailand.
In 2017, we began partnership with the Rotary Club of Suva Peninsula Sunset in Fiji.
In 2018, we began our Capital Campaign to begin the project of giving Youthlinc a permanent home and a community center to the Salt Lake area. We also began partnership with Insight Himalaya to expand our impact in Nepal.
In 2019, we began partnership with the St. Thomas Renaissance Foundation in Jamaica.
In 2020, the Service Year had to postpone all trips due to the COVID pandemic.
In 2021, Youthlinc worked with Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation for one year as we navigated a world that was still quite closed due to the pandemic.
In 2022, Youthlinc opened a new site in Rwanda in partnership with Save Community Initiative, sending both a Service Year and a GCL team.
In 2023, Youthlinc opened a new site in India in partnership with Binod Rai, Insight Himalaya, and Waves for Water. Youthlinc also received a landmark grant from bioMerieux to expand Real Life programming from middle and high school, all the way to Kindergarten.
In 2024, Youthlinc opened a new site in Ecuador in partnership with Fundacion Nukari Ecuador.
From the inception of the program in 1999, over 3,000 Youthlinc Service Year students have contributed 500,000+ hours of service in their own communities all over Utah. More than 1,000 adult professionals have served as mentors.