SPARK Program Guides Struggling Teens

Angelika Kowalska ‘15
Names have been abbreviated to protect sources.
Being a teenager can be stressful, and often teens find
themselves in trouble. SPARK provides a home for those who
suffer from substance abuse and violence. Even those who simply
enjoy helping others are welcome to join.
“We’re a family, a nutty family, but a family,” said Mr.
Seely advisor of the SPARK program.
SPARK has been around since 1971 when the the
abuse of cocaine and crack was on the rise in the United States.
It bounced off of the Red Ribbon Project which was created to
raise awareness of H.I.V. and AIDS amongst young teens. Mr.
Seely has been a part of SPARK in Midwood for eight years, but
his reputation isn’t enough. Some students may still be reluctant
to spill their problems to someone they don’t know.
“Can I trust this guy?” is what many students think to
themselves when they first walk through the door Mr. Seely said.
There is nothing to fear. Majority of what is said is
confidential. 95% stays with Mr.
Seely and the other 5% reaches
the deans, guidance counselors
or the parents if it is a safety issue. Those who choose to be
a part of SPARK see nothing but improvements. Students may
walk into the door with averages ranging between 45-55 but after
being in the program, academics improve drastically to as high
as averages between 90-95. In addition the substance abuse and
violence decreases amongst peers as well. Those who may not
feel comfortable talking one-on-one with Mr. Seely have the option
of being a part of the group discussions. Many students feel
more comfortable and open up when they realize they are not
alone and have the support of not only an adult but their peers as
“Don’t be afraid to be open,” said A.C.A.’14 who
joined the SPARK program in her second term of junior year.
She decided to join the program when her cousin invited
her to a meeting. After one session she wanted to come
back. Her favorite part are the group discussions which she states
helps students open up and provides options from not only your
peers but Mr. Seely himself. She said although she may not tell
Mr. Seely everything that is going on in her life, she can trust him
with about 90% of her problems. Some of her closest friends are
now in SPARK which has become her family.
SPARK was not created to make decisions for students,
but to help them out and guide them in their everyday
“I don’t give advice, I give options,” said Mr. Seely.
When faced with a problem, Mr. Seely will often present
you with three options. After stating the pros and cons of all
choices, he will help students make the right decision. In the end
all actions lie in the
hands of the student
who has control of his
Q . A . ’ 1 4 passed by the SPARK door everyday and didn’t know what
it was. One day her friend told her about the program, and she
decided it was the
place to be. Like many
other students she enjoys
the group discussions
where “anything
goes” and SPARK as a
whole is a judgmental
free place she said. As
someone who always
enjoyed helping others,
she watched people
grow and be more
confident in themselves.
“Be yourself
and don’t be shy. Try
to open up and it’ll
help,” she said.
So much pressure to
help students can be stressful. Due to budget cuts, Mr. Seely
is in charge of individual and group counseling, class projects
and peer facilities. Before, these jobs were split amongst three
people which allowed advisors to spend more time with their
assigned job. Mr. Seely must juggle between individual counseling,
as well as monitoring group discussions. He must also
inform new Midwood students about the SPARK program and
create a schedule that works for all members of the program as
well as himself. However, no job is too big for Mr. Seely who
still has amazing results with the SPARK program and recruits a
majority of members from the classroom presentations he makes
each year.

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