How do you motivate a young person to do well in school if they are uninterested in school? How do you encourage a young person to read more if they have a hard time sitting still for more than two minutes? The answer to these questions lies inside a personal passion for life. We call that passion a SPARK.
We have just completed our second year of SPARKS Work at Nashville Inner City Ministry. About a dozen students attended Sparks Work sessions held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 3:15 to 5pm each week. Plans to increase the number of students in the coming year also include providing transportation for the school tutors who are part of the program. Of the seniors who participated in the program, more than 50% have graduated. The interventions made by Sparks Work have often helped students improve their efforts and grades. In addition, the time spent between Sparks Work staff, volunteers, mentors and students have given us a unique insight into the daily lives and struggles of youth in the inner-city culture.
The first two years of this after-school program for at-risk high school students have been treated as a pilot program resulting from the overwhelming need to assist young people in their educational development. This mentoring program is designed to connect each student with their spark in life. Weekly discussions on practical solutions to problems related to their personal interests focus on giving each teen purpose and satisfaction in life. We connect each students' "spark" to their need to complete school/homework and to increase their commitment to reading, math, and other skills necessary for success in today's high tech society. Now that the first two years have been completed, Sparks Work leaders are in the process of evaluating the program to make it possible to become even more effective for the students in the future.
Sparks Work is still very young, but we have some early indicators that are pointing to educational success. Even though there were many struggles, the oldest of our Sparks Work teens graduated from Metro Schools this summer. As students learn to master the skills of time management, reading, writing and math, mentors learn ways to support teens who are struggling with the daily presence of poverty, violence, drugs, and death of family members and peers. This is not easy work, but we believe it creates win-win solutions for all involved.
One thing is clear concerning our ability to help young people achieve in the classroom and in life: we must have more mentors during the times of every Monday through Wednesday. We invite you to come to a SPARKS Work interest meeting or to a training session. Please contact Larry Cantrell at 615/255-1726, extension 19 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
IN ADDITION TO BEING A MENTOR, HERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO HELP:
1) Donate a new or used laptop that is in good to excellent condition, has an internal wifi modem and current software necessary for school activities - such as Microsoft Office or Open Office. We need a total of 15 to 20 laptops.
2) Donate one afternoon a year to share your story of hope, recovery, reinvention, or success with our students.
3) Invite us to your place of business for a field trip so students can see first hand the careers available to them after graduating high school or a post-high school institution.
4) Support us financially by clicking on the PayPal link on our Home page.
5) Tell a friend about Sparks Work. Let's get the entire community involved to make Nashville a stronger, safer place to live.
We thank you for your support!