Spark Program Intended to Ignite a Flame in Participants

July 30, 2015

On the last day of the week-long SPARK program, the 36 participants were asked to find a single word that defined their experience at the summer camp.

“Inspiring,” “surprising,” “awesome,” “unforgettable,” “life-changing” were just some of the answers the 12- to 16-year-old participants came up with to describe the free camp, which is intended to foster teamwork and self-esteem through educational and outdoor activities. Held at the University’s Retreat Center at Chapman Lake, SPARK was run by 21 student volunteers from The University of Scranton and Scranton Preparatory School.

On the last day of the camp, participants were also asked to define the word “spark.”

“It’s the start of a fire,” “it ignites something,” “it lights up,” were among the answers given – all of which pleased the programs founders and organizers Danny Marx, a University of Scranton graduate and mathematics teacher at Scranton Preparatory School, and Patricia Vaccaro, director of the University’s Center for Service and Social Justice.

The name of the program is deliberate, according to Vaccaro. It is intended to be the start of something for these children – something they would carry on after the camp ends.

That was the case for Jamil Islam, who was among three former SPARK participants, who returned to help on the last day of the camp. Islam, who is now a senior at Scranton High School, said he continues to share with others what he learned from the camp. “I will introduce myself to someone I spot sitting alone at school,” said Islam, who has also stayed in touch with fellow campers over the years.

To sum up what they learned during the week, the participants, assisted by camp counselors from the University and Scranton Prep, created and performed brief commercials about the program.

One group created a rap about “chillin’ with some sparkers” and “spreading the message to all.”

Another group took an imaginary boat ride on the “S.S. Spark” around Chapman Lake with stops at “personal potential island,” “teamwork island,” “social media island” and “role model island” - which were the themes of the camp. The S.S. Spark stopped at each island to pick up a passenger who then shared a lesson learned on the island.

Among the many lessons over the week was that role models are not just superstars or top athletes. Role models can be anybody - even the campers themselves. They just need to be ignited by a SPARK.

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