What’s Your Spark?

“What was your spark?” A student moderator posed this question to a panel of experienced community activists who had gathered on campus for Stonehill’s second annual Women’s Leadership Summit, sponsored by the Office of Community-Based Learning and held in conjunction with the South Shore Parents Leadership Conference in March. The panel was made up of women from around the country, including several from Harlem and Boston and others from places such as Far Rockaway, Queens and North Carolina, who have each had extensive experience working for change in their communities. Some were in education, some in politics, some in organizing, some in community gardens and food justice, some in neighborhood restoration–all community leaders, all inspiring. As they shared stories of struggle and success, I listened in awe of these women who have worked tirelessly through the years despite many obstacles and have accomplished so much. I especially thought about that question, “What was your spark?”, wondering what it was that carried these women so far in their fight for justice; what set them off in the first place.

Of course, I also thought, what was MY spark? And could it someday carry me as far as these women have gone? I had trouble pinpointing one particular moment that set me off on a path of service and led me here as a MACC VISTA, but I thought of the many that have kept my motivation lit along the way:

Seeing over 160 parents spending a whole Saturday at the South Shore Parents Leadership Conference, inspired to take ownership of their community

Youth stepping up to the mic at the “Spoken Like a Champ” poetry slam, raising their voices for positive social change

Witnessing the Brockton Youth Council getting their peers engaged in their community and discussing what they can do to make it better at the annual Mayor’s Youth Summit

Hearing fellow VISTAs share about their inspiration to serve… and their accomplishments!

These are definitely just a few of many. But they add up, and together like fireflies in a jar are enough to light my way. Sometimes the day-to-day work of a VISTA can admittedly feel inconsequential when looking at the big picture, or at the large systematic inequalities that must be overcome to reverse the cycles of poverty in a community; but it’s these little sparks that keep me inspired.

What’s your spark?


Janine DiLorenzo


Stonehill College in Partnership with Brockton’s Promise

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