SPARKing Change Youth Leadership Program

The SPARKING Change Youth Leadership Program is a year-long, intensive and immersive internship experience that gathers a group of young change-makers in our community who want to create positive, sustainable change. Throughout the year, our #SPARKINGChangeInterns learn about the power of their mind and resilience and through this opportunity, they gain hands on experience working with youth at-risk and how to facilitate through our SPARK Mentoring Programs. All of our interns are local in the Tampa Bay area and have a strong passion towards varying mental health issues in our community. Having them on our team has been a beautiful experience and we love being able to share the SPARK with a group of young people who are so eager to give back to the community in so many ways.

2021 SPARKING Change Cohort

As 2021 comes to an end, so does our time with our first SPARKING Change Youth Leadership Internship program cohort. We want to thank each of you who donated to our inaugural year, last year. At the end of 2020, we raised $42,000 for this new program, and every penny went toward our #SparkingChangeInterns. Throughout 2021, they were able to gain a vital mental health education, become mentors to our at-risk youth population, work with the SPARK team at our county jails, detention centers, youth rehabilitation/residential facilities and Selah Freedom’s safe house for sex-trafficking survivors. In addition, they took part in a self-defense class to learn basic protection skills, spoke at a conference on mental health in the UK, attended an education conference for school counselors right here in Tampa Bay, contributed to our weekly #FindtheSPARK podcast, assisted us with daily tasks in the office every week and volunteered in several community events on our behalf!

Because of you, we also were able to host monthly mental health professional development days to explore the mind and uncover their potential and resilience. They also participated in the year-long Global Change Incubator with the IOS collective, where they had extra support in learning about the mind with a group of amazing change-makers from all over the world! Last but not least, our interns learned about their amazing SPARK inside that can never be broken, damaged or stolen and is always available to them at no cost. With this knowledge, they were able to discover their creative potential and have some incredible insights about themselves and our community!

SPARKING Change in the Juvenile Detention Center

Thanks to all of our donors, our #SparkingChangeInterns were able to shadow and work along with us in the many different youth facilities we go into. One being the Juvenile Detention Center in West Tampa. They were able to hear about real life experiences from our youth and help deliver the SPARK Mentoring Programs to young males, ages 13-17.

Monthly Wellbeing Trainings

Through personal insights and discoveries from our monthly mental health and wellbeing trainings, our interns were inspired and excited to create their own community projects geared towards what they saw to be a disconnect in the world. Through this internship, they decided to create projects to bridge the gaps between two specific areas they were passionate about working in. One project being The IGNITE Program and the other is The CALM Blog.

The IGNITE Program

The IGNITE Program is a follow-up system for individuals who completed the SPARK Mentoring Programs and wish to learn more about mental health, interested in extra mentoring, need resources for college, scholarships, job opportunities, shelters and/or other facilities they are seeking special support from. Our interns created this through insight and experience from working with youth in our community who have lingering questions about life and want guidance from a personal mentor.

The CALM Blog

The CALM Blog is another program our interns created that stands for Community Advocates for LGBTQIA+ Mental health. CALM is a blogging website that spreads factual information about mental illness and mental health care specific to the LGBTQIA+ community. Emily and Carys share research, personal stories, digestible graphics and more every Friday. They hope to help close the knowledge and access gap the community faces so that their mental health can thrive!

National Mentoring Day

The SPARKING Change Interns also participated in the #NationalMentoringDay sharing why mentoring is important to them. Since our interns have had this opportunity to shadow our SPARK Mentors delivering SPARK Programs throughout the community, below are some pictures our interns captured expressing their personal thoughts about why they are a mentor.

Intern Self Defense Class

This is the day we took the #SparkingChangeInterns to a Self-Defense Class at the Wolfpack Brazilian Jiu Jitsu martial arts school. We found it crucial to share this knowledge and take this course with our interns because working with human trafficking survivors, self-defense isn’t taught enough to our community’s young people

Community Volunteer Days

Our interns volunteered their time during the Gasparilla Distance Classic Run Community Event. Together, they packed over 1000 bags for each runner, handed out running gear and gave each participant their runner’s T-Shirt. We will also be participating in the Gasparilla Parade!