Our Mission:

 

empower youth with hands-on education rooted in entrepreneurship and sustainability 

 

What We Value:

passion, community, balance, integrity & growth

 
 

Our History:

 

"At Spark-Y we believe in planting ideas, like seeds, and watching them grow."

 

Our organization was founded with this thought in mind when Founder, Mary Helen Franze, was inspired to create an organization where youth could give rise to their own enterprising ideas. In 2009 this seed would become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, where youth put their ideas into action through hands-on learning experiences centered on environmental education. Through years of testing and pilot programming, Franze laid the foundation for much of what the organization is today - youth learning through nature, facilitating community partnerships that bring youth ideas to life, and creating organizational growth by youth leading youth.

Taking Root

This seed took hold with a handful of individuals who would become the organization’s first Board of Directors. Among them was Zach Robinson, now Executive Director of Spark-Y.

In many ways, I am one of this organization’s many examples of empowered youth leadership. The idea that one individual acting passionately can make a big difference,” said Robinson.

After serving on the Board for a number of years, Robinson would go on to become Operations Director, piloting the same organizational principles into science classrooms with sustainable learning models such as aquaponics.

Robinson building an aquaponics system in 2012 as Operations Director.

Robinson building an aquaponics system in 2012 as Operations Director.

branching out

Today, one single seed has grown into an organization that serves more than one thousand students each year. Our students, interns, and partners are responsible for bringing to life the greenest school campuses in Minnesota, developing and implementing commercial-scale sustainable projects throughout the Twin Cities, and for passing on the seeds of environmentally-minded ideation to the next generation of empowered youth.

We are Spark-Y. We believe in the power of one seed.

Mary Helen Franze and Zach Robinson receive grant at half court during a Timberwolves game in 2014.

Mary Helen Franze and Zach Robinson receive grant at half court during a Timberwolves game in 2014.