Heroes in the Making

In our search for Lumenaries (educators) and SparQs (students), we seek out individuals doing incredible work for communities in need. Most often, the projects these heroes engage in are long-lasting, working with these communities year over year and touching many lives. As we share their stories and good work, we catch but a glimpse of their impact.

However, beyond our mission to spotlight existing heroes, we also hope to cultivate new ones. In doing so, we seek to spotlight younger students in pursuit of providing a social good. They may have a single project impacting a small group of people within a specific timeframe. On the other hand, their project may be a launch point for some grander objective. While their stories might not be as comprehensive and far-reaching as Lumenaries and SparQs, their impact is nonetheless valuable and significant. We see these individuals as heroes in the making.

Today we introduce the Ember Project to promote this aspect of our mission. The focus of the Ember Project is to highlight student projects that provide a social good for a group or community confronted with a problem. The project may stem from a classroom activity or initiate solely through the student’s personal interests and goals. Our direct support for the project can come in many forms with the intent to promote and enhance their work in a manner they could not otherwise accomplish on their own.

We have partnered with Westside Neighborhood School, integrating the Ember Project with the school’s 8th-grade capstone, called the Passion Project. As with LumenSparQ, the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals drive the Passion Project, and the students’ projects often focus on underserved or underrepresented communities and the problems they face. We will provide a monetary contribution for a selected project(s) that aligns with our mission and demonstrates a need for financial support. Ultimately, the funding must directly impact the community addressed in the project.

Look for a follow-up post regarding our first recipients in the coming weeks. Additionally, please reach out to us if you have a school or program in mind that would fit well with the goals of the Ember Project. We are eager for new partnerships and ways to collaborate.

Lifelong Warriors

Yesterday, March 26, the LumenSparQ board joined El Camino College students, faculty, administration, and community members on the “CommUnity Walk Against Hate” to support the fight against hate, racism, and intolerance. While the focus was on recent anti-Asian hate crimes, the event emphasized inclusivity and unity with people from all backgrounds.

Before the walk, we listened to inspirational speeches from Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, State Senator Steven Bradford, and the El Camino College board members, including their student representative, Karina Ramirez.

The message was clear, “Hate has no home here.”

This walk kicked off the first of many events to be organized by students through the newly created Student Social Justice Center, which will debut in the fall of 2022.

You may remember our first Lumenary, Kim Cameron, as she runs the Warrior Food Pantry here at El Camino College. And each of the LumenSparQ board members started their educational journey on this campus, so our connection is lifelong. We celebrate and support the efforts of these courageous young students.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

I come from Mexican, Indigenous, Puerto Rican, Spanish, Portuguese, African, and Jewish mothers. My DNA test surprised me and made me think of all the women that existed for me to be here. Each of these women had their unique way of looking at life. I can imagine the hardships that many had to endure for me to be here. Many of them sacrificed a lot for the next generation. I can’t help but think about the fabric of my DNA and how many profound thinkers, doers, artists, and creators are represented there. It is an honor to be related to all these women. We at LumenSparQ are thankful for our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women that represent our past.

WOMEN WORK HARD. Their work is often ignored; they are overlooked in the market, discriminated against, marginalized, harassed, and even killed for being a woman, for being Mexican, Black, or Asian. The women around us matter, the women before us matter, the women who are next matter. WE MATTER. Use your voice, vote, and energy to help lay a foundation for the betterment of all women.

We have the tremendous responsibility to protect this earth for future generations, protecting a most valuable resource: WOMEN. Women think, work hard, create, protect the earth, build communities, inspire and dream big. In their greatness, we thrive. Feel inspired by all the women that represent your blood to continue fighting for our equal place in the world.

Our First SparQ – James Kanoff

James Kanoff is the co-founder of the Farmlink Project. In the early days of the pandemic, he and his friends had a simple idea. Let’s make a connection between a local farmer and our food bank. We rent a truck, take the excess produce off the farmer’s hands, and deliver it to the food bank. With this one small act, a movement had begun.

Read the full story…

What History Can Teach Us

Eighty years ago today, on February 19, 1942,  President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry (immigrants and U.S. citizens) from the West Coast of the United States for fear they might support Japan in the war. 

As a direct result of this Order, my parents’ families were moved to relocation camps in the inner states.

My father, Thomas (pictured above), was sent from Los Angeles, California, to Heart Mountain, Wyoming, at age twelve. My mother, Florence, arrived from Seattle, Washington, to the camp at Minidoka, Idaho. She was also twelve.

Each family would spend the next three years in the camps, adjusting to this new life by creating schools and building community within the confines, while armed guards stood watch in their towers until the end of the war in 1945. 

With no “home” to return to, each family found its way to Chicago, Illinois, a city known to be friendly and tolerant of Japanese Americans after the war. 

Let’s learn from both the negative and positive actions that are a part of our history. Do our best not to make decisions based on fear or discriminate against a group because their members don’t look like us. Be inspired by people that choose grit and perseverance over acquiescence and withdrawal. Honor the sacrifice of those who came before us by choosing love and community over hate and division.

Lennox Middle School Book Club

It’s after school on a Tuesday in February. The Lennox Middle School Book Club members have gathered around the table. Our Lumenary, María Saldaña, leads the discussion on two books they have recently read. The students, a blend of middle school ages, sit quietly at first. In her soft yet confident voice, María sets the tone for the afternoon.

The first book is Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The topics are heavy; there’s physical and emotional abuse, neglect, the foster care system, and all of the challenges it carries. Even so, once the conversation begins, students eagerly engage in the discourse. After a deep dive into the story’s characters, students relate the readings to their own home lives, some disclosing personal events in their recent past. What is shared in this group stays in this group. The Book Club is a safe place.

The second book, Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulson, is comparatively lighter fare. It is the club’s first graphic novel, and within it, vegetables come to life thanks to the magical work of a friendly witch. The book illustrates the themes of kindness, trust, and making judgments based on more than simply someone’s appearance. One young student who doesn’t usually speak up suddenly finds his contributions worthy of dialogue among the members. His feelings of validation are palpable. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are valued here.

The afternoon ends with the distribution of their next read, Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai. Students depart with anticipation for this new story and another gathering in the coming month.

We are so excited to spotlight and support María’s vital work. This work is on her own time and often her own dime, as there is no school or district funding for the LMS Book Club. This year, we provided books as part of María’s recognition as a Lumenary.

We would love to continue to support her and her students in the years to come. Please consider a donation below if you’d like to support us in these efforts.

If you missed María’s story, you can check it out here.

Honoring the work of Dr. King, Jr.

As parents, many of us can recall endless hours telling our kids stories. There were stories of superheroes, real-life heroes, and even tales of family members who have done heroic acts. Stories are important. They talk about conflict and often the resolution. In honoring Dr. King’s legacy, I hope that we continue to examine the story of The Civil Rights movement and its connection to the continued struggles today.

In Rebekah Gienapp’s article, “Seven Ways to Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy with Children,” she encourages parents to discuss the implications of the “I Have a Dream” speech then and now. Gienapp writes, “Having just experienced the largest protests in U.S. history, which were fueled by police brutality against Black Americans, we owe it to our children — and to ourselves — to go deeper in our exploration of King’s work.” An integral part of the work is discussing inequality with our children and within our communities.

The reality is, Dr. King’s dream is still a work in progress. In a world where racism and fear for safety still exist, the importance of continuing conversations within our communities, schools, and especially with our children is part of the necessary work towards change. So as parents, educating ourselves and our children on stories of the multitude of people who fought and those who continue to fight for social justice is necessary. We are teaching our children powerful counter-narratives by keeping these stories alive. Unfortunately, many in our society believe Dr. King’s dream has become a reality, and the fight for social justice is no longer necessary. A Counter-narrative shares the truth that many people continue to feel oppression. This narrative supports those working to change components in this system for the good of all people.

Just as in a puzzle, counter-narratives and education are only one piece. With information and knowledge, we can continue to have challenging conversations about racism, social justice, and making positive changes in our world.


#socialgood #mlk #community

A Very Special Giving Tuesday

With a heavy heart, we arrive at Giving Tuesday this year, and today we ask that you consider a donation to another organization. Gabriel Stauring and Katie Jay Scott ran the organization known as iACT, whose mission is to “provide humanitarian action to aid, support, and extend hope to those affected by mass atrocities.”

Gabriel and Katie Jay were killed in a four-car traffic accident in Manhattan Beach last Tuesday. We are heartbroken at the loss of these two incredible people, both because of their heroic work and their relationship with our board members, our friends, and our colleagues. 

We mourn the loss of Katie Jay and Gabriel, and we thank them for their service to the world. Please consider giving this Tuesday to their organization, iACT, or the GoFundMe page for the family. 

Help break the cycle of violence for communities affected by mass atrocities.Support iACT’s work to identify new solutions that can be co-created, managed, and led by refugees.

Support the Family of Selfless Humanitarians
This GoFundMe campaign was created to support the family of Gabriel and Katie Jay.

To learn more, see the article published this past week in the LA Times.

Board Member Spotlight: Christine

Over the summer, our board member Christine developed a Sensory Path on the playground at Buford Elementary School. The purpose of a Sensory Path is to allow students to use exercise and motion to release stress and cope with various emotional states.

Christine worked with DaVinci High School students to design and map out the course based on the available space and the flow they felt best met the needs of these elementary-aged students. Along with student volunteers and LumenSparQ board members, Christine and her team used bright colors and inviting shapes and characters to bring this design to life.

Christine writes, “The sensory paths give students a chance to spend a few minutes of their school day walking, jumping, bouncing, and ‘pushing themselves through their distractions. Experts say sensory paths can also help students develop motor skills, including balance, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness.

“Our program, the Juntos Wellness Program, first embraced the idea of a Sensory Path to support students who were sent to the office or self-referred and needed a space to ‘motor out big feelings’ before they were able to talk about them. In the past, counselors might walk with a student or give them a motor activity to do with their hands to help calm their bodies and minds.

“A Sensory Path allows students to not only motor their big feelings during challenging moments but also enable them to practice those skills ahead of time. Ideally, a sensory regulation course is used often. Teachers take time every few days to walk through the course, allowing students to practice movement, breathing, and other regulation tools. This practice creates muscle memory and can make it easier for students to use regulation tools in challenging moments. “

To learn more about Sensory Paths, see the following resources:
Here’s Why More Schools Should Explore Sensory Paths
Everything You Need to Know About Setting up a School Sensory Path 
10 Station Sensory-Motor Walk Activities for Schools

Lumenary #3 – María Saldaña

As we return to school this fall, we are honored to announce our third Lumenary, María Saldaña, English teacher at Lennox Middle School in Lennox, California.

In addition to her full-time teaching position, María coordinates the after-school LMS Student Book Club, a program we have chosen to support.

Read her full story

It seems that great minds think alike, as the Lennox School District recently selected María as Teacher of the Year, among a faculty of approximately 350 educators. It is well-deserved recognition. We wish her and her students the very best in the coming academic year.

LumenSparQ will honor María through the purchase of books she will select for the book club kids this year. These books will represent diverse and inclusive voices and perspectives.

We are grateful to all of our donors, as your financial support helps to make this possible. To support future programs, click on the link below.