Sparks Participates in the Philadelphia Futures Career Week Program

December 15, 2021

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Sparks recently participated in the virtual Philadelphia Futures Career Week program, with team members speaking to a small group of Philadelphia high school students, ranging from 9th to 12th grade, in a 90-minute workshop titled ‘Defining Your GRIT to GROW.’

Philadelphia Futures, a non-profit organization, provides support, resources and opportunities to Philadelphia students facing economic hardships who are also typically first-generation college attendees. Through its work, the organization aims to give the students the tools they need to achieve success as they apply for college, as well as in their future endeavors.

The Philadelphia Futures Career Week program specifically, is designed to offer local high school students a valuable opportunity to learn about different types of careers, make meaningful connections and expand their knowledge and skills.

Leading the Sparks workshop were members of the company’s DE&I ERG Steering Committee who represent different departments and teams within the organization. Panel members included Courtney Hsu, Senior Account Coordinator, Events; Angeline Bonin, Executive Producer; Marsharelle Tolbert, Account Manager, Retail; Mike Ellery, Chief Creative Officer; Michelle DeSanctis, Account Director and Robin Lickliter, Chief Experience Officer.

In developing the workshop’s overarching ‘GRIT to Grow’ theme (GRIT = gumption, relationships, imagination and tenacity), the Sparks team wanted to focus on things that made an impact on their own careers.

“The theme of the workshop, using your GRIT to grow, stemmed from a discussion about everything we wish we would have been told at that age,” says Robin Lickliter. “We also wanted to layer in elements from our own DE&I Steering Committee, including Be YOU and inclusivity. Ultimately, our goal was to encourage students participating to embrace who they are and their own individuality.”

Within the Philadelphia Futures Career Week Sparks workshop, the words that made up the GRIT acronym served as the basis for four discussion topics. To make it interactive, students were sent Sparks notebooks aka ‘personal brand brag books’ and pens in advance to use both in journaling activities during the workshop and beyond.

“Journaling is a practice that can make an immediate impact in your life and also has ongoing benefits,” says Marsharelle Tolbert on the power of journaling. “It affords the opportunity to sift through and reflect on our thoughts, manifest our dreams and record our accomplishments. There is power in the written word and we wanted to encourage the participants to tap into that form of power.”

The workshop’s format allowed for an open forum between students and Sparks team members, who shared their own personal experiences throughout. Establishing a dialogue and open window of communication was important to the Sparks team, as it allowed for connection.

“Watching the conversation develop into ‘a-ha’ moments was so fulfilling,” says Lickliter. “During the high school years, students are faced with major life decisions at such a young age. Without a strong network or guidance, many of them have to make those decisions on their own. Having the opportunity to hear real-life stories and ask those influential questions fuels growth.”

The opportunity to come together to make a difference for young people was extremely fulfilling.

“We come from all different parts of Sparks but we’re a group of people who care about each other and other people's successes,” says Courtney Hsu.

Ultimately, the goal for the Sparks team was to provide the students present during the Philadelphia Futures Career Week program with a valuable experience and to provide takeaways that they can use not only on their career journey, but also in life.

“GRIT is perseverance and pushing through even when you push uphill,” notes Michelle DeSanctis. “This is when my successes have been the most rewarding. The harder it is to achieve, the more gratifying it is when you achieve it. This is when I’ve seen the most growth in my personal and professional life.”



For more information about the Philadelphia Futures organization, click here. Learn more about Sparks’s commitment to inclusivity here.


Posted by Dyan Cornacchio | Request as a Speaker

Social media and creative writing connoisseur. Obsessed with my golden retriever, pop culture, and pizza. Nothing makes me happier than being home on LI, relaxing at the beach with my family.