Sparks are the activities and interests that truly engage kids to be their best. Research shows that kids who know and develop their sparks—and who have adults in their lives to help—have higher grades, better school attendance, and a sense of purpose.
This story from Timothy St. Peter, a prevention specialist in Williamson County, Texas, demonstrates the power sparks have to inspire and motivate young people.
At the Round Rock Neighborhood Conference Committee (NCC), volunteers conduct an intake with students dealing with truancy. During the intake process, volunteers ask students to identify their spark before they develop a Positive Action Plan to address truancy issues. As part of volunteering with NCC, it is important to identify and discuss the students’ passions, future goals, and what inspires them. This was definitely the case during an intake with a young woman earlier this year.
As the volunteer coordinator, I frequently sit in with new volunteers to provide support. On this particular Thursday evening, I was fortunate to sit in on an interesting intake. The student was a sophomore with good grades and a pleasant personality, but had missed several days of school.
When the intake started, the student described her spark as working with children. She mentioned that she enjoyed working with the kids at her church and hoped to receive a degree in Early Childhood Development or Education. When asked what her plans were after graduating, she explained she would like to start by working in a childcare center to gain some experience before moving on to teaching English.
As the volunteer worked with her on a plan, I realized one of the issues she was struggling with was that her friends gave her something to think about when she felt like skipping school. It was apparent that when she got bored with school, she would think about the immediate future and how much fun it would be to hang out with her friends.
When the intake completed, I decide to offer her a chance to experience something different—to expand her vision of the future beyond what her friends had to offer. Fortunately, my wife is a Director at Four Seasons Community School (FSCS), a private childcare center. After a quick phone call, I was able to arrange an opportunity for the student to visit after school.
With her parents’ full support, the student visited FSCS and it was a big success for both her and my wife. Her visit included a tour of the facility and a chance to be co-director for an hour. Afterward, they shared dinner and talked about the importance of attending school. They also talked about college, CPS licensing, childcare requirements, and aspects of Early Childhood Development. It was apparent that she was very grateful for the opportunity. As for me, it was important that this particular student have an opportunity to experience her spark as a real possibility for her future. That’s NCC!
Are you interested in bringing sparks to your program or school? Use these resources to get started:
- Learn About Sparks: For the best source of information on sparks, buy the book that started it all, Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers.
- Help Kids Find Their Sparks: Use the Igniting Sparks curriculum with the young people in your school or program.
- Ignite Sparks In Your Community: Bring our dynamic sparks workshop to the parents, educators, and leaders in your school or program and start making a spark in young people’s lives.