The Project SPARC Story

Project SPARC stands for Springfield Participatory Action Research Crew.

We are an intergenerational team of community researchers from the New North Citizens Council, Smith College, Project Coach, and the Springfield community-at-large looking into the path Springfield youth take after high school as they move towards independence and young adulthood. We are funded by a Participatory Action Research (PAR) grant supported by AmeriCorps, which means that:

1) the community most impacted by the issue we are researching is deeply involved in the research process, and

2) our goal is to generate and pilot community solutions and actions in addition to understanding the issue.

Our Project SPARC team is committed to understanding the obstacles that emerging adults face as they transition into adulthood, forging connections among community members who support youth success, and creating innovative ways to ensure Springfield youth have real opportunities to succeed in higher education or careers post-high school graduation. During our first year of research we held several dozen interviews with members of the Springfield Community in which we were able to hear first hand about the obstacles and challenges faced during their high school experience and early young adulthood. 

What did we hear? After high school, I felt stuck. We have documented a few of these stories in the form of digital stories. We encourage you to take a look to hear first-hand about how young people in Springfield navigated feeling stuck during their own transitions out of high school.

 In year two of our work, we piloted community-designed solutions aimed at helping young adults better navigate the transition out of high school. During this time we:

  1. Launched the Springfield Young Leaders Fellowship (SYLF) which set participants up with a near-peer mentor as well as opportunities to build skills such as financial literacy, networking, and community engagement.
  2. Created and shared a series of resource guides including the Springfield Choose Your Future planner and the Springfield Guide to Adulting pamphlet. 

Throughout year three we launched a new series of interviews to dig deeper into this topic. We want to know what out of school (OST) and community programs can do to support young people in their transition into the real world. Whether going into college or a career path, this transition is tough, especially for first generation students and youth living in economically-challenging areas. Our goal is to understand what helps, and to share that information with the wider world. Most recently, we have completed the following:

  1. Published a piece in Other Education highlighting our findings about out-of-school time (OST) programs 
  2. Launched the SPARC Month of Action in an effort to plan and execute an action plan surrounding our findings about out-of-school time programs
  3. Held an online-interactive workshop designed to share our findings with OST program leaders from across the country in an effort to better support youth nation wide.