The start of another SPARC year is just about a month away. Because of your commitment and generosity, we’ve ensured that SPARC can operate fully this coming academic term, providing the students with opportunities to enjoy and learn from their experiences.
The NEHS Project SPARC Boosters officially became a chartered association operating under the NEHS Alumni Foundation on 1 July. We are planning a number of activities for the coming year, including a fundraising campaign and a fundraising event. We also got a great idea to hold a SPARC Alumni reunion. So look for more information about these activities in future announcements. Remember, our objective is to establish a sustained pool of funds to keep SPARC operating for many years to come.
In preparation for these activities I’m pleased to announce the launch of our new Facebook Page and the Booster website. We are going to phase out the Mission: Save SPARC Facebook page. It has served us well, but we needed a new page to reflect the formation of the SPARC Boosters. The new page is: NEHS Project SPARC Boosters. So please, when you’re on Facebook, go to the page and “Like it.” Also please add your comments, photos and stories.
The website has been under development and review for the last two months. We are very excited that we will now have a web presence and also be able to accept donations and inquiries. On the page you will find background on the Boosters, Project SPARC and information on how to make donations and get involved. We’ve also included a reference to recent articles and news reports about SPARC. Under development, but not yet active, is an archive for SPARC history and photographs.
Both the Facebook page and the website are works-in-progress. So we welcome your comments and suggestions for improvement. One area that you can help with is testimonials. The site currently has several testimonials from donors and alumni. We want to keep the site fresh by continually rotating new testimonials. So, if you would like to have your testimonial posted on the site, just send us a message.
We do intend to post frequent updates on the fundraising effort, the impact of the donations and reports on SPARC activities in both places.
For now enjoy and we look forward to your continued involvement in securing SPARC’s future.
On a special note, former astronaut and Friend of SPARC Chris Ferguson visited NEHS yesterday. He had a chance to tour the SPARC facility and to see the upgrades made possible from the many donations we received. He also had a chance to speak to the SPARC students. (See photos)
The SPARC Boosters just held a meeting to start the planning for creating a fundraising program. In order to carry out this effort the Boosters created several standing committees and our goal is to have them operating by the end of July.
Here’s your opportunity to put your skills and passion to work in support of the SPARC Boosters. We’re seeking volunteers to serve on these committees and to contribute to the effort to sustain SPARC for the long-term. Below is a list of the committees and their functions.
If you are interested in finding out more information, please send me a message. You will find the experience very rewarding.
Events Committee - Support the planning and organizing of fundraising events and other activities
Annual Giving - Support the development and maintenance of an annual giving program
Corporate/Foundation Relations - Establish and maintain relationships with corporate and foundation sponsors
Publicity and Marketing - Develop and maintain publicity and marketing materials including the website, social media, newsletter and e-mail updates
Awards and Scholarships - Develop and oversee awards and scholarships for SPARC students
Finally, our website is now in development and we’ll be sure to keep you posted on the launch date. And we’ll soon be transiting the Mission: Save SPARC Facebook page to the NEHS SPARC Boosters page so check back soon.
SPARC held its final flight of the year on Thursday and Friday. The objective of the mission was to establish a permanent colony on the moon. Coupled with the flight was an open house for alumni, donors, parents and other friends.
Below are two links for the press coverage of the flight.
It was a really exciting event and those of us attending had an opportunity to meet with many of the students, including the astronauts. A number of SPARC alumni were there and it was great to see old friends. A real highlight of course was seeing Robert Montgomery Jr., SPARC’s founder.
We had a chance to speak with him and express our thanks and appreciation for his dedication as a teacher and for the impact he had on so many students. Even the current students were excited about the opportunity to meet Mr. Montgomery.
I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to all of the current SPARC students, to Mr. Connelly, the SPARC Director and to Mr. Frank, the Magnet School Director, for hosting such a fine event. And best wishes to all of the SPARC seniors for success in college and all of their future endeavors. We expect you back as members of the Boosters.
Finally, a special thank you to all of the donors. When we started this effort back in December there was no guarantee this flight would take place. Your generosity made it all possible! Now SPARC is secure for the next academic year and the NEHS Project SPARC Boosters is now in place to begin the plans for the long-term sustainability of the program.
The date for the next Booster meeting is not yet confirmed. It is tentatively scheduled for the week of June 2. I will keep you posted. The website is also under development and we hope to have that operational before the end of June.
Please let me know if you would like to get involved with the Boosters or if you have any questions.
The final mission of the year was successfully launched this morning. I'll provide a more detailed recap of the mission in another post.
But also occurring today is the open house. We have a number of alumni attending. The open house is from 3 to 5:30 PM. If you didn't RSVP that's ok. If you're in the area just stop. You can enter through the SPARC wing.
As an added incentive for SPARC alumni, Mr. Montgomery is stopping by.
On behalf of Northeast High School's Project SPARC and the Project SPARC Boosters, we would like to invite you to the next scheduled two-day flight. The flight will take place on Thursday, May 22 and Friday, May 23. The mission is to establish a permanent colony on the moon.
During this mission, there will be two separate launches. A Delta IV Rocket with an Orion capsule attached will carry a crew of four astronauts. The other rocket will be an Ares rocket that will carry six months of supplies to the habitat on the moon. Two astronauts will be left on the moon at the end of the flight.
The first launch will take place on Thursday, May 22 at 8:30 AM. At the end of the school day, the SPARC wing will remain open to visitors for an open house from 3:00 to 5:30 PM. During this time, visitors will have the opportunity to speak with the student members of SPARC and to see the facility and technology upgrades that were made possible by the overwhelming support of the Northeast Alumni and the Northeast community.
All donors, alumni, parents and friends of SPARC are invited to attend. If you plan to attend during the school day, you must enter through the main entrance on Cottman Avenue. If you plan on attending the open house, you can enter directly through the SPARC/Magnet Wing on the Summerdale Avenue side of Northeast High School.
If you are interested in attending, please send me a message. I will be submitting all of the names to the SPARC Director. You will receive a confirmation message with the final instructions.
Three months of effort came to a close on Wednesday, 16 April 2014, as the SPARC Planning Team approved the Charter and By-Laws for the NEHS Project SPARC Boosters. We are now an officially chartered association operating under the NEHS Alumni Foundation.
The planning team also elected the first Advisory Board that will govern the Boosters. There are 14 voting members. The list is as follows:
"¢ NEHS SPARC Alumni Members: Burt Dicht, Brett Mandel and Aaron Friedmann
"¢ SPARC Director: Joe Connelly
"¢ Magnet School Director: Christopher Frank
"¢ NEHS Faculty Member: Bonnie Taylor
"¢ SPARC Faculty Advisor: Anne Johnson
"¢ Alumni Foundation Representative: Howard Rovner
"¢ NEHS Administration Representative: Sharon McCloskey (Betty DeNaples, Alternate)
"¢ Members-at-Large: Kathy McAdoo and John Kamal
"¢ SPARC Parent Representative: Carole Niemiec
In addition, two SPARC students will be selected to serve on the board as voting members.
I also want to report that the board elected me to serve as the first Director. I consider it an honor and a privilege and I look forward to working with a great group of people as we secure SPARC's long-term future.
On the fundraising front, we have raised almost $20,000 through the GoFundMe site and direct donations to the Alumni Association. We have used some of the funds for facility and technology upgrades (new control room floor tiles and a digital video system), faculty stipends, supplies for the Robotics Group and CPR certifications for the Medical Group. With more than $15,000 remaining in the fund we are well positioned to support SPARC's operations for 2014-15. And with Gary's computer donation along with the other technology upgrades , the SPARC students planning for the next mission are going to be well equipped.
The next mission is scheduled for 22-23 May. You are all invited to stop by and cheer on the students as many seniors will be completing their final mission. And it was your help and generosity that made it possible. I'll provide more information on the mission in another message since the school will be asking anyone that plans to attend to RSVP.
Look for more details about the SPARC Boosters soon. We plan on recruiting additional members to the working committees that will be supporting the board's activities. A website is also under development and we hope to launch that (pun intended) in June.
Our next meeting is planned for the week if 2 June. If you are interested in participating, please let me know.
Thanks to everyone who has had a role in saving SPARC.
The next meeting is scheduled for 16 April and we intend to finalize the Charter and By-laws for the NEHS Project SPARC Boosters. If you are interested in attending, please send me a message and I will get you the details.
It has been a few weeks since the last update. We held a planning meeting yesterday to review the second draft of the NEHS Project SPARC Boosters Charter and By-laws. I’m very happy to say that we resolved several outstanding issues and we’re going to complete one more revision.
We have scheduled the next meeting for Wednesday, 16 April to conduct a final review and to approve the governance document. We have settled on an Advisory Board that consists of 13 members. The Board will include 3 SPARC alumni, the SPARC Director, the Magnet School Director, 2 SPARC students, a non-Magnet school teacher, an Alumni Association Foundation representative, a NEHS Administration representative, 2 Members-at-Large and a Parent representative (of a SPARC or Magnet School Student).
The current timetable is to have the Board operating by 1 July. And we also have started the process of creating a Booster website that we intend to have running by June.
As for SPARC itself, I mentioned during the last update that our funds are being used for a new floor in the control room. That work is continuing and there will be several more upgrades completed in preparation for the next flight, scheduled now for May. In addition, our funds were used to pay for the CPR certificate fees for the students in the medical group, who just completed their training.
It’s been very exciting to see the impact our donations have had on SPARC and the students. But we have more work to complete in order to get SPARC on a solid financial footing and I’m confident with your help we’ll be successful.
If anyone would like to attend the next meeting, please let me know and I’ll send you the details.
We held our second planning meeting yesterday and I wanted to provide you with a status report.
In terms of fundraising, between the GoFundMe site and donations sent directly to the Alumni Association, we have raised $18,895.53. So again, I want to thank all of the donors. These funds have been placed in a separate SPARC Fund account established by the Alumni Association.
I am also very happy to report that your donations have started to have an impact. A major facility upgrade was needed for the SPARC Control Room floor. This is a raised floor that enables easy access to the system and console cables. They are using your donations to replace the floor tiles. And like many things in SPARC, the students are very involved in the process. I will continue to report on how your donations are being put to use in future messages.
In terms of our planning for the creation of an association that would serve to manage the long-term fundraising effort, we made a great deal of progress. A draft description is below:
The Northeast High School (NEHS) Project SPARC Boosters, operating under the NEHS Alumni Association, exists as an organization of alumni, students, parents, teachers, donors and community members dedicated to:
"¢ Ensuring there are adequate funds to maintain SPARC's annual operations
"¢ Creating and maintaining a pool of funds to be used by SPARC to improve facilities, upgrade technology and maintain state-of-the-art operations
"¢ Supporting, encouraging and advancing Project SPARC as a premier after-school program that engages students in science, engineering and medically related activities and inspires them professionally
The plan is to have the Boosters governed by an Advisory Board that consists of NEHS SPARC Alumni, current SPARC students, the SPARC and Magnet School Directors, representatives from the school administration and the alumni association, a NEHS teacher and several Members-at-Large drawn from the community.
We have started to develop By-Laws for how the Boosters will operate and we are also developing a fundraising plan. Part of the fundraising plan includes creating a dedicated website that will allow for credit card donations as well as provide information on the Boosters' activities and impact.
There is a much more to be completed and we have scheduled the next meeting for 18 March. Let me know if you would like to attend.
In the meantime we are going to keep the GoFundMe site active. And SPARC supporters can also send their donations directly to:
NEHS Alumni Association
1601 Cottman Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19111
Make the checks payable to the NEHS Alumni Association Foundation and place "SPARC Fund" in the memo area.
Please let me know if you have any comments and suggestions related to the plans. We welcome your input.
Great news! Two donations were just received by the NEHS Alumni Association that were earmarked for SPARC. One was for $250 and the other was for $5000. That is just amazing. A big thank you to the donors!
So that brings our SPARC fund to $17,868.44.
The next planning meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, 18 Feb. I will provide you all with a report on the outcomes.
I just wanted to provide an update on the donations and also share some very exciting news.
We had some recent donations and the total raised is now $13, 735. So with the $12,191.97 we've turned over already, we'll be sending SPARC an additional $426.47 for a grand total of $12,618.44.
That is just outstanding! Another thank you all for your generosity and support of SPARC.
The other news has to do with one of our donors and former SPARC members. You might remember one of our long-term goals is to raise funds to enable an investment in new technology, hardware and facilities for SPARC.
As we've been developing these plans I heard from Gary Rosenzweig. Gary was the computer manager at SPARC from 1984-87. Gary has had some conversations with Chris Frank, the Director of the Magnet Program, about the current state of SPARC computer equipment.
Because the students are really struggling with outdated computers, Gary decided to step in and update all of their equipment. Gary is going to be purchasing and donating new computers, monitors and other associated equipment to bring them up-to-date.
Wow, thank you so much Gary! It is just another example of giving back to a program that had so much influence on our lives.
As we continue with our planning work one of the steps is to conduct a SPARC equipment inventory survey. We want to assess where there are gaps and what areas need upgrades. So perhaps we'll identify some opportunities for some of you to help out in other technology areas.
I'll continue to share updates on our planning. The next meeting is scheduled for 18 February.
We have tentatively scheduled another planning meeting for 18 Feb in the SPARC wing. Once I have confirmation I let you all know.
In the meantime, we are assembling a list of individuals willing to assist with our long term fundraising efforts. If you would like to be placed on the list please just send an e-mail to me using the GoFundMe site.
I wanted to let you know the final funds have been transferred over to SPARC. So in all we turned over $12, 191.97. Again, thank you all for your generosity and support. We couldn't have done it without you.
Thanks to our efforts, SPARC will resume operations beginning in February and they are planning the next mission for May. So look for more details on that soon. Also, please see the link below for an updated Northeast Times article on SPARC:
SPARC Open House "“ The SPARC leaders and students are planning an open house to showcase what they do and the impact it has on students. Alumni, donors, parents, members of the community and all friends of SPARC will be invited to attend. They will be providing dinner and guests will be able to tour the facility and meet the students. They are also planning to demo a mission. There will be a small cost for participants just to cover costs. We'll get you more details once the date is confirmed.
NEHS Alumni Day "“ The Alumni Association is planning its annul Alumni Day. This is held the first Friday in May (2 May). There is a session at the high school in the morning to be followed by a luncheon at the Brookside Manor in Feasterville. With all the alumni have done to support SPARC, you can be sure the efforts will be a major topic. All NEHS alumni and other friends of SPARC are invited. As soon as details are available, we will share them with you.
Our next planning meeting will be held in February and we'll keep you updated on the progress.
I'm happy to say because of the overwhelming response from all of you, we have saved SPARC for the rest of the academic year.
Yesterday we turned over $11,283.54 to the Director of the Magnet School. Another $908.43 will be transferred as soon as the funds clear GoFundMe.
The money will be put into a separate account under the NEHS Alumni Association, ensuring the funds will be used only for SPARC. And we will get periodic reports on how the funds are being used.
We also had a great discussion on developing plans for a long-term fundraising effort to help sustain SPARC. In attendance were the SPARC student leaders, faculty members, the principal, representatives from the alumni association and several alumni donors.
We did confirm that that the school district is not going to be able to fund SPARC over the next several years. So it is imperative that we come up with an effective plan. We all agreed to move forward with the development of an advisory board that would oversee and manage the fundraising effort. This board would work under the alumni association's 501c3 not-for-profit status. And again, the alumni association would manage the funds, ensuring they are dedicated only to SPARC.
We have a lot of ideas and over the next several weeks we are going to try to give them some structure and substance, leading up to another planning meeting in February. We will report back to you when the plans are refined.
Also we have decided to keep the GoFundMe site operational until we can set up acceptance of credit cards donations by the alumni association. So all future donations are very welcome.
As an added bonus, the Fox 29 News visited SPARC yesterday to record the transfer of the funds. They put together a great report that really highlights the impact SPARC has on students. Enjoy!
We're now at $12,862 or 97.07% to our goal. Thank you all.
As part of this update I wanted to bring two items to your attention:
First, I would like to share a recent post from Shareef Alwarasneh, the SPARC Student Project Coordinator and Administration Manager. It is a great reminder of why we're all committed to ensuring SPARC's future.
"I speak for everyone in Project SPARC when I say thank you so much! SPARC means so much to us students because it's not only another club to us, it's a big family where everybody can be themselves. It amazes us how much the alumni still care about their school and about Project SPARC even after being away from Northeast High School for so long! Hail Northeast! Loyal all are we!!"
Second, I received an inquiry from a NEHS grad and potential donor. He asked about how we set our fundraising goal and wanted a little more information on how the funds will be used. I sent a response and he made the good suggestion to share that with all of you. I converted it to narrative form to provide context and it is a good summary of our efforts to-date:
"When we heard about the cancellation it was over the holidays and the school was closed. So we couldn't reach out to any school officials to ask questions. We didn't want to wait until after the holidays before starting the process so we just decided to act. We didn't have any firm numbers on need, just a quote in the paper that said several thousand dollars was required to keep SPARC going for the rest of the academic year. So we set an initial goal of $5000.
The response really was more than we expected and very gratifying. Since we passed the first goal we decided to raise the goal in order to keep the donations coming. I finally spoke to the faculty advisor for the magnet program on Jan 2. He confirmed that over the last several years they had been operating on budgets of about $10k per year, with the teachers donating their time.
When we started this process our objective was just to keep the program going for the rest of the year and buy us time to explore other funding options. But it's clear they needed more than just several thousand dollars. They also needed some investment in technology upgrades too.
So as the donations came in we continued to raise the goal in order to provide a pad for the rest of the year. The $13250 goal was based on the real needs they had and the expectation of how much more we could raise.
There was concern from many donors as to how the funds would be used. They wanted to ensure the funds would only go to SPARC and not some school general fund. We got confirmation from the faculty advisor and the school that if we turned the funds over to the NEHS Alumni Association, they could earmark the funds for only SPARC.
That is our plan and the check transferring the funds will be made out to the alumni association. In terms how the funds are used by SPARC, we didn't want to get into micromanaging the expenditures. We trust the advisors and student leaders to use the funds to get the most impact. But we are insisting on getting frequent reports on how the funds are used so we can inform the donors.
That will also be part of the plan going forward. We want to look at creating an advisory board that would operate under the alumni association's 501c3 status.
We plan on turning the funds over at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 14). We're meeting in the SPARC wing. Several teachers, students, reps from the alumni association and alumni/donors will be present. We will also start the planning for the long-term.
For information on the costs for using this site, the fee from GoFundMe is 5%, the credit card fee is 2.9% and there is a $.30 charge for each transaction. So we'll be turning over close to 92% of everything we raised. Right now that is approximately $11,833.
I will post another update to report on the outcomes of Tuesday's meeting.
$12,369 and counting, so let's keep the momentum going. We've upped our goal to $13,250.
I can't say it enough, but thanks to all of the donors for your generosity and commitment to Project SPARC. Just to illustrate the impact your donations are having, I'll share a "thank you" message from a current SPARC student that is part of the engineering group:
"Thank you so much for raising money to save our program. Now we don't have to worry about SPARC this year. Thank You!"
And we also received support from Chris Ferguson, Philadelphia native and the Commander of the final Space Shuttle Mission, STS 135. In case you missed his important and inspirational message, it is repeated below:
"I saw the SPARC story in the Inquirer during a Christmas visit to Philly. I was astonished that such a forward looking program like SPARC could be a victim of a budget axe. Wake up America! It is through programs like this that dreams are made, young minds are filled with ambition, and the future begins to unfold. I can think of no better cause and encourage the Philadelphia School District to take a deep, introspective look as the message we are sending when we divest ourselves from those who will build tomorrow's world."
Just an update, next week we are scheduled to meet with the SPARC faculty advisors and students to turn over the funds. The funds will be managed by the NEHS Alumni Association to ensure they are directed only to support SPARC activities. We will continue to provide updates on the fundraising status and report to you on the results of the meeting at SPARC.
We've raised $9429 toward the goal of $10,000. (This time I checked to make sure I had the right number of zeros. Of course, there is nothing wrong in setting lofty goals.)
Thank you to all of the donors for ensuring that the "The Dream Is Alive." I'm referencing the great IMAX film about the Space Shuttle Program because your donations and support will enable the current SPARC students to fulfill their dreams. And with more work we'll do our best to enable future students to create their own SPARC experiences and dreams.
Just to illustrate, below is a list of several Northeast Times articles on recent SPARC missions:
We are now up to $8654 and climbing. The outpouring of generosity and support for SPARC has really been uplifting. Thanks to all of the donors and other supporters. We wouldn't be here without you.
We know we've raised enough funds to keep SPARC going through the academic year. And we look forward to their 2 day spaceflight in May. But let's keep this effort going. We've raised our goal to $10,0000.
That would enable us to provide SPARC with a small financial pad that might be able to hold them over until we implement a sustainable funding plan. So keep spreading the word.
To quote another famous Buzz, "To Infinity and Beyond."
As of today we have raised $5676. It's just an amazing response and we again thank you for your generosity and support of SPARC.
Today, we also had the opportunity to speak to several of the SPARC and Magnet School faculty advisors. We got confirmation that the funds we have raised will be used only to support SPARC. And the funds should allow for the continuation of SPARC activities through the end of the academic year. We explained that our goal was to ensure that all current SPARC students had the opportunity to complete their SPARC experiences.
The SPARC leaders will determine how to best employ the funds to accomplish that goal. They have some immediate needs for technology and hardware upgrades as well as plans for a two-day spaceflight mission in May. We only asked that they provide an update on how the funds are used so we can share that information with you.
We have set a tentative time-frame for turning over the funds for the week of 13 January. We also plan to meet with the SPARC leaders, both faculty and students to discuss long-term planning to ensure SPARC's financial sustainability. We have not firmed up the meeting yet, but it will be held at SPARC in the afternoon one day that week.
If any of you are interested in taking part in this meeting, please let me know and I will provide the details once they are confirmed. (Please note that space will be limited.) Even if you cannot attend, also let me know if you might be able to assist in other ways. We will also report on the results of the meeting and the next steps.
In the meantime, to encourage continued donations we have raised our goal to $6500. So please spread the word and continue to share your stories on the Mission: Save SPARC Facebook page.
Earlier today we passed our fundraising goal and to-date we have raised $5256 in support of Project SPARC. The response in just one week has been nothing short of amazing.
I want to personally thank all of the donors who gave so generously, past and current SPARC members who provided postings and testimonials on the "Mission: Save SPARC" Facebook page and the NEHS alumni and all of the friends of education who spread the word about this important cause.
I would also like to extend a very special thank you to Mr. Art Levy, a fellow NEHS graduate from the Class of 1977 (and a very good friend) for developing the SPARC Facebook page and making sure questions were answered and the content was current.
While we can congratulate ourselves on achieving the fundraising goal, we know there is more work ahead to ensure SPARC's future. For now we are going to keep the fundraising page open, and additional donations are very welcome.
Before deciding on the future of the fundraising page, we are awaiting word from the NEHS school officials on how much is needed to keep SPARC operating through the end of the academic year. This confirmation should come on Thursday and we will let you know as soon as we hear back.
Also, a number of former SPARC members have offered to help explore options to sustain funding for SPARC for the long-term. This effort is underway and we'll report back on our status as plans are further developed.
In closing I would just like to reprint a message posted today on the Facebook page by Mr. Christopher Frank, the Director of the NEHS Magnet Program. It gives meaning to why we are all engaged in supporting Project SPARC.
"As the Director of the Magnet Program at NEHS, I would like to thank all the donors and the founder of this page, Mr. Dicht, for your support for Project SPARC. SPARC means so much to our students and the staff continues to do our very best to provide educational opportunity for the students of NEHS. The legacy of excellence, academic achievement, and service is alive and well at NE and I thank you for continuing to support this good work at Northeast High School." Christopher Frank, Director of the Magnet Program at NEHS
Great news! As of this update we have raised $4435, or 88.7% of our goal. It has been an amazing response in just six days. We couldn't have done it without you and on behalf of those working on this effort and the current and future SPARC students; I thank you for your generosity and support.
We know there is still more to do and this week we are reaching out to the school and school district. We'll be sure to keep you informed.
Also, through our Save SPARC Facebook page we have been able to document stories and photos from previous SPARC classes. You can access the page at:
One of the discussion threads centered on the question, "What is SPARC?" A number of former SPARC members provided very passionate testimonials on how SPARC impacted their lives. So please take a look and add your own.
For this update I would like to provide my own perspective. If you looked up SPARC in a course catalog it might read like this:
SPARC (Space Research Center)- An afterschool program where students learn the basic concepts of science, math, engineering and medicine and learn how to apply those concepts in developing real-world, hands-on projects related to aerospace, medicine and engineering.
Sounds pretty dry, doesn't it?
For those of us who were part of SPARC, we know it's really an experience. To illustrate, I'm reminded of the quote from President Kennedy's historic speech at Rice University in 1962:
"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills . . . "
That is SPARC! SPARC provides students with the ability to dream big things and then with the opportunity to accomplish those things using "the best of their energies and skills."
And the things they do are hard, but it's the challenge and reward of accomplishing them that resonates with students for the rest of their lives. The outpouring of support for SPARC from the alumni is a clear demonstration of that concept.
In closing I'll leave you with a quote from a current SPARC student, "Thank you alumni, students and anyone who has donated to help keep this program alive. We have a legacy to continue and more history to write."
So let us all make sure we achieve our fundraising goal to ensure the current students can "write more history."
I can only say Wow! Since my last update on Thursday, the donations have really taken off. (Ok, sorry about the pun.) We are now over $2400 and almost halfway to our goal. The generosity of the donors amply demonstrates the impact we all have felt SPARC has had on our lives. On behalf of those of us involved in this effort I thank you. We are working many avenues and we're starting to better coordinate the work.
A good example is our Mission: Save SPARC Facebook page. Many former SPARC members have started to post photos and stories from their experiences. And people have also offered fundraising ideas. So please take a look and add your own story.
I'll provide additional updates as we reach out to the school and the school district when the holiday break ends.
In just two days we have raised $620. The word is starting to get out. We have a lot of former SPARC members mobilized so we'll do our best to achieve the goal. Thank you to everyone who has made a donation.
On Monday, 23 December 2013, members of the Northeast High School Class of 1977 learned that the Philadelphia School District, facing severe budget challenges, cut the funding for Project SPARC and many other after-school programs. Project SPARC, which stands for Space Research Center (formerly Space Research Capsule) was conceived in 1962 by Robert A. G. Montgomery Jr., who was then a physics teacher at Northeast High School, to teach high school students about space exploration.
As word circulated that SPARC was being cancelled, many of my classmates expressed great sadness and regret that such an impactful student program was coming to an end. Since its inception, several thousand students have been involved in launching space missions to orbit, to the International Space Station, to the moon and to Mars. Everything from the design and construction of the spacecraft, to the flight planning and monitoring of the missions was done by students. The SPARC team students needed to develop skills in engineering, medicine, physics, astronomy, safety, teamwork, logistics and planning to carry out the missions. And many of the students, me included, were inspired to pursue careers in engineering, science or medicine.
Nothing can replace the impact of hands-on programs like Project SPARC. Coupled with reports that US students are lagging behind other countries in science and math achievement, the Class of 1977 sees this cancellation as a great tragedy. So we are very motivated to get the funding to restore SPARC.
That is why we have started this fundraising effort and we are asking for your help in re-launching SPARC. Our goal is to raise $5000 over the next month so we can get the program restored for at least the next year. We know this is only a short-term solution, but your generous contribution in support of these talented students will provide the time to explore long-term funding options. So if you're a Northeast High School alumnus, a friend or family member of a graduate or just someone interested in supporting an amazing student based science program, please make whatever donation you can afford. Please also spread the word to help with this important effort.
On behalf of the Class of 1977 and all former and current SPARC members, I thank you in advance for your support. I'll keep you updated on the results of the campaign and the status of Project SPARC.
Per Aspera Ad Astra (Through Hardships to the Stars)
Burt Dicht Northeast High School Class of 1977 SPARC Astronaut and Flight 27 Mission Engineer
Please check out the following links to learn more about Project SPARC:
I was in the Flight Systems group from 1981 to 1984. SPARC gave me direction at a time when I needed it and pointed way to my career. I chose Aerospace because it was written on the side of the SPARC wing.
My husband, Fred Pecker, Class of 1961, and I, Class of 1965, are NE graduates who are most grateful for this opportunity to support young students interested in the sciences. Programs such as SPARC inspire young people to explore the unknown and to challenge themselves. All academic clubs must be supported and funded!
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