Sparkplug joy: New cohort of Community Sparkplugs kicks off in Atlanta

February 14, 2018

First, let me say hello and how pleased I am to join TRI as its new Chief Programs Officer. I have long observed the work of TRI’s School Turnaround in Atlanta Public Schools, and am thrilled to be a part of the organization.


Our Community Sparkplug intervention keeps growing and gaining momentum in Atlanta. Last weekend we welcomed 11 new teams and two returning teams who will lead new projects in the community to enhance learning for children.


Every project is conceived of and led by a local citizen—a person we call a Sparkplug. Armond Dowdell is one of them—he and his volunteers will be creating a garden in an area that’s mostly a food desert. Kelly Beatty is another—she plans to bolster middle-school girls’ self-esteem by giving them opportunities to learn about personal health and beauty — then the girls will have a chance to “shop” for beauty items, using their grades.   


As the Sparkplugs gathered with us to set their strategies and targets, their level of energy and excitement was contagious. Six hours into the workshop one of the Sparkplugs, Malik Newman, said, “You know, you’re helping us write a strategy and business plan and you’re going to help us make it work. That’s what you’re doing. And you should know some companies pay a million dollars for that. Thank you for doing it for us for free.”


Our response back is: Thank you for doing it for free and for showing how much you care about your community.


This past weekend, I also had the pleasure of attending the Results & Learning Celebration for an earlier group of eight Sparkplugs who recently completed projects. This group impacted the lives of over 400 kids in just six months. The lessons that they learned from each other and the ways that they supported each other was absolutely powerful to hear, and their excitement for the work that they have done was a joy to see.   


All of the ideas, energy, and programming that Community Sparkplugs are bringing are a strategic complement to the School Turnaround work now underway in Atlanta Public Schools. Things are happening. Kids’ learning is at the center. Let’s keep these cycles of action and change going.


New 2018 Sparkplug Projects:

  • Innovation Guild

  • Neighbors Supporting Scholars

  • Club DARE

  • Book Boss

  • Gideons Garden

  • Eagle Wings

  • Project Lead

  • M.A.R.I.E

  • GLAM for Grades

  • Sylvan Middle School Sparkplug Project

  • Courage to Live


Renewing Sparkplug Projects

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