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)
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:
The most recent SPARC Mission
Space Shuttle Astronaut and STS 135 Commander Chris Ferguson's message to SPARC
News clip from a previous SPARC Mission
Newspaper article from a previous SPARC Mission
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