Spark Central Breaks the Opportunity Barrier

At Spark Central, we believe that everyone, regardless of income, deserves access to creative learning opportunities and innovative technologies. Such access opens the door to discovering one’s creative power, confidence, and opens future pathways to opportunities that shape the future of individuals and our community.

Think of the calculations that rocket scientists make; one fraction of a degree difference on earth can mean the rockets is hundreds of miles from its target in space. Giving no-cost access to creative learning experiences and innovative tools can set kids, teens, and even adults ahead for years and years to come.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one-third of Spokane’s West Central residents live in poverty. Many have suggested we charge for our youth programs and community events, offering scholarships if needed. At Spark Central, we would argue that scholarships are opt-in equality, but are not necessarily equitably. 

Take a look at the three images below. The first image shows inequality—where the children lacking in height do not have access to the experience of the game going on in the field. 

Image courtesy of the Long Beach Community Partnership

The second image demonstrates how equality can be achieved—by offering support to those who don’t have access with vouchers, scholarships, and permissions. The people providing the boxes for these children can pat themselves on the back, but does it feel good for those having to opt-in to be equal? To ask for equal access or enroll in a program for those “less fortunate,” you have to admit you’re different or have different privileges from those who have access already. As a teacher, I had homeless students refuse scholarships because they didn’t see themselves as poor or needy. Should we demand they assume this identity? Such an identity doesn’t feel equal.

The third image removes a systemic barrier so that access universal and all children can see the game without needing to identify with a certain group or ask for assistance. This is what we call equity.

Spark Central strives to be this equitable chain-link fence that invites everyone who walks in our doors to participate, regardless of income. This practice says to our patrons, “You belong here. This space—these programs—are for you!” We offer our membership, youth programs, and community events at no charge so that everyone has the chance to explore visual and literary arts, music, engineering, and robotics and follow where their creativity leads.