By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer
To help build a brighter future for younger generations, SFU student Aman Boparai co-founded the SPARK Foundation. The Surrey-based organization focuses on providing mentorship and networking opportunities for students in grades 3–12. However, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, SPARK expanded their initiatives to support a larger community of Surrey residents.The Peak spoke with Boparai and fellow SPARK mentor Sam Czulinski, about how their work impacts local communities.
Whether it’s a leadership camp for youth or donating resources, all of SPARK’s initiatives revolve around the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, such as sustainability and climate action. Their mission statement explains their plan to achieve these goals is by “empower[ing] the next generation through quality life education.”
According to Boparai, quality education “where the person who’s receiving the knowledge is thoroughly learning, where they’re actually internalizing it, and it’s not just something that they’re memorizing.”
By centering their work around youth empowerment, SPARK achieves these goals. Their most recent events include organizing book drives with Write to Read BC, an organization dedicated to providing Indigenous students with reading materials, and creating care packages for Surrey families. The latter earned SPARK a grand prize at the 2020–2021 SFU Student-Community Engagement Competition.
“SFU has always been providing us the resources that we need and we’re very thankful for that,” Boparai said. “We saw so many participants go through our programs and [ . . . ] flourish. We have team members that came in and they were very quiet and reserved. As we went on, they just got so much more passionate. And it wasn’t that they didn’t have the passion before, it was just that they weren’t able to display the passion, because they weren’t given the resources to.”
The community-building aspect motivated Czulinski to join SPARK. Like Boparai, Czulinski celebrates youth’s accomplishments and encourages them to be proud of their Surrey upbringing.
“I believe in the impact that SPARK has made and continues to make. As a youth born and raised in Surrey, I have come across so many snarky remarks and rolled eyes during conversations surrounding where [I] grew up.
But those eye-rolling stereotypes aren’t the whole truth of Surrey. The SPARK Foundation is one of many organizations that works to break the stereotypes and embraces youth’s engagement in our community, motivating youth to take action on topics passionate to them, because the youth are the next generation of leaders driven to create positive change,” Czulinski said.
“Food insecurity is [no] longer the exception, and is becoming more of a mainstream issue with families, college students, [and] single-income families,” Czulinski explained.
Through their projects, Boparai and Czulinski encourage youth to lead by example, inspiring their peers to donate their time to the community. By mentoring youth, SPARK is creating a stronger network of activists in Metro Vancouver.