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Meet CourseStorm’s SPARKed Grant Winners!

Brian Rahill

February 16, 2023

Sometimes, a little extra boost is all it takes to spark a big change. That was the impetus behind CourseStorm’s SPARKed Grant Program, launched last year with the goal of awarding up to $10,000 in micro-grants to selected winners. Any nonprofit or for-profit educational organization or business providing learning opportunities to the public was eligible to apply.

CourseStorm received many strong applications from worthy organizations, making the selection process quite challenging. In the end, we chose eight applicants from across the United States, ranging from an aviation training provider to youth arts organizations, as the recipients of our inaugural SPARKed Grant Program. The SPARKed Grant will provide all of these organizations with funds to develop, market, and provide new programs or expand their existing offerings to reach more people.  

“We have an amazing group of organizations selected to receive the SPARKed Grant. These programs already have such a positive impact on their communities and we’re so excited to help them reach their goals,” said Nic Lyons, Marketing Manager of CourseStorm. Given the company’s roots as a startup, we know that even a small financial boost can make a big difference for organizations like these and help them make an even bigger impact. Here’s a look at the first-ever SPARKed Grant Winners.

Introducing Our SPARKed Grant Winners

Founded in 1946 by a group of high school musicians who met at a summer music camp, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) serves young musicians ages 6-18 with more than 12 ensembles, high quality music education, and community programming reaching audiences of all ages. Currently, 9,725 students participate in CYSO, 49% of whom receive financial assistance or attend a free program. The SPARKed Grant will help CYSO provide tuition assistance to more students and increase community engagement efforts so that more young people have access to the life-changing effects of music education.

For the past 10 years, Miami Theater Center (MTC) has captivated and educated young audiences with live arts experiences, from original plays and musicals to performances by professional dance companies. MTC provides free field trips to school groups, teaches arts-based classroom workshops in schools, and also offers after-school programs and camps. The SPARKed Grant will help increase MTC’s capacity and reduce fees and barriers to participation for registrants, particularly for those in need.

Since 1998, Kirkland Performance Center (KPC) has been the place to see rock shows, musicals, and comedy acts in downtown Kirkland, Washington. Now, with the help of the SPARKed Grant, KPC is launching a brand-new education program dedicated to lifelong learning in their community. Youth and adults will be able to take courses such as beginning songwriting and recording music for video games, as well as participate in a community choir for all abilities and backgrounds.

In Northwestern Pennsylvania, Asbury Woods impacts more than 100,000 people each year, who visit to learn about animals and the environment, try snow-shoeing or making maple syrup, or simply enjoy nature. The SPARKed Grant will allow Asbury Woods to develop new programs and purchase materials related to water conservation, their focus for 2023. 

Learning to sew not only teaches people vocational skills like how to make clothing and home decor, it also provides a framework to learn STEM concepts such as geometry, materials science, and even chemistry. Stitch Masters Sewing School in Minnesota plans to invest their SPARKed Grant in marketing and software to double their course offerings for teens and low-income adults, as well as reach 30% BIPOC representation. 

Transportation safety and security is more important than ever. SSi, Inc. has been a leading provider of aviation security training since 2004, offering in-person workshops and more than 1 million on-demand online courses and trainings annually on such topics as airport emergencies and aviation disability awareness. The grant will enable them to improve user experience and customer service to more than 60 airports of all sizes.

COVID hit Cottage Theatre hard. The small community theater in Oregon was shut down for two years due to the pandemic and related labor shortages and supply-chain issues that impacted a long-planned remodel. Now, the theater is looking to rebuild and grow their youth education programs with help from the SPARKed Grant, which will support marketing and scholarship efforts. 

Mixxer Community Makerspace in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, offers tools, technology, and community for creative people of all ages and abilities who are interested in making things, whether it’s an electronics project, sewing, woodworking, or metalworking. The SPARKed Grant will help Mixxer expand to offer year-round education opportunities for youth in grades 6-12 in STEAM subjects.

Find Out When Next Year’s Grant Applications Open

If you are interested in learning more about the SPARKed Grant Program and how you can apply next year, sign up for our email newsletter and be the first to hear when future applications open! 

Brian Rahill

Brian is a scientist-turned-education technology executive. He has founded and led technology companies for more than 20 years and uses his analytical mind and experimental approach to spur growth in small and medium businesses and start-ups. He is passionate about using technology to enhance access to lifelong learning.

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