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.

Ready for the First Day of School

The installation of the Little Free Library for 156th Street Elementary School took place this past Sunday. We loaded the library, wood supports, and bags of cement into the truck and made for our destination.

As with all construction projects, it seems, the process wasn’t without its hiccups. Upon arrival, we discovered we had no access to electricity or water. So how would we power the tools and mix the cement?

Our installer, ever prepared, had almost all tools running off of battery, but the cement mixing would now take place by hand. A couple of return trips home and the kindness of neighbors resolved most of the other setbacks.

With the quick-dry cement cured, the time came to install the post. That’s when we noticed the bolts and nuts used to stabilize it did not match. I was sure I purchased the right pairing. Argh! One last trip to the hardware store, an exchange of parts, and we were back in action.

The entire process took a bit under three hours. We returned in the afternoon to weatherproof the post and plant a few succulents around the new LFL.

Here are some pics from the installation:

This morning, we made a final trek back to campus to pack the LFL with books donated by the Friends of the Palisades Branch Library and Geoffrey’s Comics. The library is now brimming with new reads, awaiting the arrival of the children.

The Little Free Library, complete with exciting new reads, stands ready for the students at 156th Street Elementary.

Thank you to all of our donors, supporters, and friends for making this campaign a success. Here’s to a wonderful start to the school year for Ms. Dudley and the students at 156th Street Elementary.

LFL Campaign Update

The build for our Little Free Library, supported entirely by the generous donors for this campaign, is complete. The funds raised covered all material costs and the installation at 156th Street Elementary School that will take place in late summer.

While we anticipated purchasing books with the excess funds, the library will now be filled with books given by the Palisades Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and graphic novels donated by Geoffrey’s Comics in Torrance. The remaining funds from the campaign will go directly to the school.

Here are some pictures of the build process for our Little Free Library:

We designed and laser engraved a donor plaque which serves as a testimonial of support from the broader community for the work that Ms. Dudley has done for the students, faculty, and parents at 156th Street Elementary.

Donor plaque design and laser engrave were completed in-house here at LumenSparQ.

Through our social media channels, we will provide an update when the installation of the LFL takes place on campus. This campaign has been exceptional, and we know the students at 156th Street Elementary School can’t wait to use their new Little Free Library.

Thank you to all of our supporters!

Little Free Library Campaign

Over this next month, we are running a select fundraising campaign to install a Little Free Library (LFL) for Mrs. Dudley and her students at 156th Street Elementary School. 

The cost for materials and installation is $400. With your help, we can make this happen.

Our founder, John Umekubo, will design and build the LFL, similar to the one pictured above and in the campaign video below. With this DIY approach, we reduce our labor costs, and John can enjoy another opportunity to make something fun.

For our campaign donors, we will engrave your names on a wooden plaque mounted on the side of the LFL. This plaque not only honors your contribution but shows the students that there is an outside community that cares about their future and supports their learning.

View our campaign video below for more details. And thank you!