As part of my VISTA Assignment this year I was to work on the Sparks program, something that I had very little idea about prior to starting my year of service. For those of you who are not familiar with the Sparks program, as I was, it is based on the idea that everyone has something that they enjoy doing, whether or not they want to pursue a career in it. As I just graduated from St. Olaf College, the student participating in band, choir, or orchestra, whom are not music majors come to mind. They are pursuing and getting involved in something that they enjoy doing and have a passion for.
So much of school today has turned into racing toward some future goal, graduating high school and going on to college, that we often loose sight of the importance of doing things that we enjoy. The arts, which include dancing, painting, acting, singing, and playing and instrument to name a few, come to mind. Northfield students identify the arts as one of their top sparks, yet funding is often cut for those kinds of programs is schools. Now, I am not here to condemn or comment about whether or not I think that the way schools choose to spend their funding is correct or appropriate; I believe that they always have the best interest of the kids in mind. Rather, I am trying to emphasis the importance of finding out what your child’s, your neighbor’s child’s, or any child’s spark is and once you have found that out, see if they are able to engage that spark, or if they would like to engage it more.
For me engaging my interests was a really large part of my high school and college career and continues to be an important aspect of my life today. The pursuit of activities that involve my sparks has been really important to my happiness and wellbeing, even if it is a pick-up soccer league; I am still able to engage in my spark of participating in sports and athletics. I am also able to engage another one of my sparks this year through my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA, service to others. Ultimately, the Sparks program is not about helping kids find a career that they will find enjoyable as an adult, it is about helping kids find activities that they have a passion for now and helping them pursue those activities to promote their happiness.
In this next year, Sparks will be getting a little bit of a face-lift. Originally it was restricted to Sparks Sites, but in the next year we will be expanding the scope, to target a larger audience we will be opening it up to the public so that everyone can learn of ways to engage in activities that they find enjoyable. Sparks is all about finding ways to continue to be involved doing things that you love. So, you might have started out playing flag football as a young child, then moved up to tackle football in middle and high school, and maybe you even played in college, and now reigniting that spark by coaching a youth team.
Although Sparks is aimed at helping youth pursue their passions, the value of anyone pursuing their sparks should not be overlooked. After all, we could all use a couple of activities that we look forward to during the week.
For further information please visit the Northfield Healthy Community Website at: http://northfieldhci.org/ and click on the Sparks tab.