ALEXANDRIA – Nelson Mandela once said “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.” For one Louisiana State University of Alexandria student, tomorrow has come a little early.

Just a week ago, Jonathan Gros, a junior English Education major from Pineville, Louisiana, was utilizing his 3D printer to tinker with creating Avengers figurines and items for the children’s Sunday school class that he teaches at his local church.

His phone rang from an unknown number. Upon the completion of that call, Jonathan was quickly thrust into the COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts.

The call came from Rapides Parish School Board Technology Director of four years, Luke Purdy. Luke, also a fellow 3D printer hobbyist, had been given Jonathan’s information from a Bolton High School teacher who had previously solicited Jonathan’s help to repair her 3D printer.

Prior to talking with Jonathon, Luke had been working to create personal protective equipment, or PPE, using his own 3D printer. With little progress, he decided to seek help.

“Before I contacted Jonathan, my progress was slow. I had only made items for two masks,” Purdy said. “Jonathan’s assistance, including teaching me about my printer and explanation of troubleshooting, was instrumental in improving my production.”

Since talking to Jonathan, Luke’s speed and efficiency in printing has greatly increased.

The relationship that Luke and Jonathan formed through their conversation also helped pull Jonathan deeper into the CENLA 3D printing community. Since LSUA loaned its only 3D printer from its College of Business to St. Francis Cabrini School, Jonathan was without a network.

With permission from Jeff Powell, Superintendent of the RPSB, Purdy decided to make Jonathan an honorary member of the RPSB group.

“Jeff saw everything on Facebook and told me to coordinate our efforts. As great as Jonathan was to work with, I knew I wanted to include him on our team,” Purdy said.

Jonathan began 3D printing in 2017 when you received his printer as a Christmas gift. Through various YouTube videos and practice, he taught himself how to operate the machine for various projects. When asked about creating the PPE, he humbly said, “It’s not hard. I just received the file from the 3D printing group on Facebook and started making them.”

Jonathan made the decision to attend LSUA because he knew he wanted to be a teacher right here in CENLA. With his ACT score and high school academics, his tuition is fully covered through the state’s TOPS programs and other scholarships. Additionally, he knew that by staying close to home, he would forge local relationships that would continue long after graduation and help him in his teaching career.

Through Luke Purdy’s description of him, “A soft-spoken leader without trying, who is genuinely a neat and humble guy,” Jonathan’s impact on CENLA will be felt long after the COVID19 crisis is over.