A spark is very special. According to Search Institute, sparks are interests or passions that light a fire in a person's life. Spark expresses the core of who a person is and how they want to engage with the world around them. Sparks bring joy and hope.
Isn’t that beautiful?
I recently rediscovered a TEDTalk by the social scientist Peter Benson. Peter was passionate about empowering youth to thrive. And he was certain that spark is a key factor.
“Over the past few years, we’ve asked over seven thousand kids about what gives them joy and energy. What’s going on in those moments when life feels the richest and the fullest with purpose and hope. Their sparks fit into five categories: leading, learning a subject matter, service to the globe, athletics and the creative life.”
Doesn’t that sound like 4-H?
I often visit clubs, fairs and other 4-H learning experiences. On each visit, I see youth discovering and cultivating their sparks, fanning them into flames that burn bright and warm. And then when caring adults come around our youth to encourage and support those sparks? It’s almost like magic. Here are a couple recent examples.
- Charlie, Gabe and Simon are cousins from Wright County. Along with Jessica of Sherburne County, they placed fourth in the National 4-H Avian Bowl, a highly respected knowledge competition. Learning the required subject matter so deeply was this team’s spark, according to their coach Mark. “They competed at a regional and state level to qualify for the national competition. They have been learning and preparing for years.”
- Briana participated in the 4-H Youth Teaching Youth program, where she learned to deliver lessons on internet safety, nutrition and other healthy living topics. 4-H staff gave Briana, from Washington County, the space and encouragement to explore her interests and discover what brought her joy. She’s now attending U of M Duluth, fanning her spark for leadership as a pre-service elementary school teacher and 4-H afterschool volunteer. Briana said, “4-H made me realize how much of a passion I have for teaching.”
Great things happen when young people find their spark and have opportunities to let it grow with the support of caring adult champions. It happens every day in 4-H. And together, we can ensure it happens for every 4-H’er.
What is your spark?
I hope you are able to name your spark with confidence and pursue it with joy. Take some time this week and ask a young person what their spark is. I hope you will find a way to be that young person’s spark champion.
Jennifer A. Skuza
Minnesota 4-H State Director
Inspired by Sparks? Watch Peter Benson’s full TEDTalk.