Northeast High’s SPARC program will fly once again

It looks like the North­east High as­tro­nauts stuck up on the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion will be res­cued after all.

The school’s Space Re­search Cen­ter, or SPARC, which was shut down this year for lack of funds like every oth­er non­s­ports ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­ity, just got an in­jec­tion of funds and will re­sume next month.

North­east High’s Class of 1977 ran a fun­draiser on its Face­book page and on Jan. 14 turned over more than $11,000 to the dir­ect­or of the mag­net school to keep the af­ter­school sci­ence pro­gram run­ning, and former SPARC as­tro­naut Burt Di­cht re­por­ted an­oth­er $900 was ad­ded by week’s end.

“The money will be put in­to a sep­ar­ate ac­count un­der the NEHS Alumni As­so­ci­ation, en­sur­ing the funds will be used only for SPARC,” Di­cht wrote on the class’s Face­book page. “And we will get peri­od­ic re­ports on how the funds are be­ing used.”

All good news for the more than 100 kids who par­ti­cip­ate in the SPARC pro­gram.

“Yes­ter­day, we had a large meet­ing in the shuttle room with school ad­min­is­trat­ors, alumni as­so­ci­ation, SPARC alumni them­selves, teach­ers and stu­dents about fund­ing the pro­gram in the fu­ture,” stu­dent Jeremy Cruz told the North­east Times on Jan. 16. “Over­all things are start­ing to look up and SPARC will start again in Feb­ru­ary,” he stated.

And the kids who twice a year go on vir­tu­al space flights or man mis­sion con­trol at the sci­ence mag­net school in­side North­east have to get ready for their spring mis­sion — to bring back as­tro­nauts left be­hind after a vir­us “killed” three oth­ers in Decem­ber.

That dark Decem­ber script that Cruz wrote left open the idea of the spring res­cue, but the cut in ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies scrubbed that mis­sion un­til the Face­book SPARC fun­draiser star­ted Dec. 30.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than a week, said Di­cht, who was SPARC as­tro­naut his seni­or year.

But all this out­pour­ing of love and money solves only this year’s cash prob­lem. A long-term fund­ing source has to be found to keep the pro­gram, which star­ted in the 1960s, fly­ing.

The money situ­ation for ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies is look­ing “pretty dire” for the next few years, Di­cht said last week.

An ex­tern­al fund­ing source has to be found, he said. 

“We want a sus­tained ef­fort,” Di­cht said. “We are con­sid­er­ing some fun­drais­ing ideas … maybe, an an­nu­al event.”

Both Cruz and Di­cht said there are tent­at­ive plans for an open house in early Feb­ru­ary.

The idea is to show off SPARC and, per­haps, have a short sim­u­lated mis­sion so guests can see what the pro­gram means to the stu­dents.

“This is something that tries to en­gage them,” Di­cht said of SPARC’s use of math, med­ic­al and sci­ence school­ing.

“There’s no ex­per­i­ence like it any­where else.” ••

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