Celebrating Women’s History Month

As we celebrate the incredible work of women throughout history this month, and every month, here are two recent social media posts from the amazing women here at LumenSparQ. And while on the topic of amazing women, we will soon announce our second Lumenary, a passionate, caring, and committed educator at an elementary school in LAUSD. More to follow about her in the coming weeks.

Women's Rights are Human Rights.
Women’s March, Los Angeles. Poster by Karina Umekubo

Katya De los Rios, Founder
On March 8th, 1911 my Grandpa Hector Ibarra Rodriguez was born in the state of Sinaloa. In his youth, they moved to Mexico City where he spent the rest of his life. Even though my grandparents lived in a typical household with machismo, my Grandpa became the most important source of love and support to my mother. My mom was free to be herself around my grandpa and felt truly loved and supported by him. He celebrated my mom’s milestones and applauded her sense of humor. My mom shone because the source of light was love. My grandfather found a way to connect in an environment that told men to not show emotions and treat boys better than girls. My mom became a source of light herself; celebrating and loving us deeply. I can feel the love that my mom still has for my Grandpa. Celebrate International Women’s Day by shining a light on a girl or woman you care about. Loving and caring for a woman has generational repercussions that truly continue to make a difference once the igniter of the light has passed on. Be that light today.

Women belong in all places where decisions are made, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Women’s March, Los Angeles. Poster by Katya

Isabel Umekubo, Teen Advocate
I am grateful to be blessed with a voice, one that I can call my own. It saddens me that many women across the world are stolen of their voice, and robbed of their spirit. In this world, women who were born in the wrong body are beaten and murdered. Women with disabilities are mocked and ridiculed. Women who love other women are battered and mistreated. Women in larger bodies are degraded and harassed. Women of darker complexions are terrorized and tortured. Every woman is a warrior, but in this life, we must dedicate everything we have to fighting for and beside those who have been excluded from the movement for so long. Lend part of your voice to someone so that theirs can be shown in a new light, where it is loved and cherished.

#WHM #IWD2021

Global Sustainable Development Goals

When considering the selection of our heroes to spotlight and support, we look to the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals for inspiration. These 17 goals were established and “adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.” 1

Here are the 17 goals as adopted by the United Nations:

The mission of each future Lumenary and SparQ will undoubtedly connect to one or more of these global goals, operating at what the UN Secretary-General described as the third level of mobilization, People Action. At this level, “youth, civil society, the media, the private sector, unions, academia, and other stakeholders…generate an unstoppable movement pushing for the required transformations.”

The work of our first Lumenary at the El Camino Warrior Food Pantry aligns with a few of the global goals, including Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, and Reduced Inequalities. We look forward to spotlighting future Lumenaries and SparQs, and the change-maker missions they implement in their communities.

  1. Quoted from “https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/”

The 100 Percent Model

In his book Thirst, Scott Harrison, founder, and CEO of charity: water, describes the 100 Percent Model as a commitment by his nonprofit organization to ensure all public donations go directly to the projects they run to bring safe, clean water to those in need. He explains that “Americans are known for being generous, but one in three say they have no confidence in charities.” He sought to change that.

At charity: water, overhead costs, such as employee salaries, marketing, and all other associated operating costs at the corporate level, are paid for by a separate account (funded by philanthropic individuals and groups that understand where their money goes).

From the beginning, the LumenSparQ board has believed strongly in this idea. As such, we vow to put 100 percent of the generous donations that we receive directly toward the work of our heroes. As Scott states in his book, “Take the number one objection people have about charity – how much of my money really gets there? – and obliterate it.”

At LumenSparQ, we run a small operation. Unlike charity: water, we don’t have a second account dedicated to overhead expenses, nor a philanthropic group with the ability to cover operating costs. However, being small allows for lower overhead costs. Each team member has an existing career in the education sector, so there are no paid employees. We all passionately volunteer our time toward this mission. Funding for items such as marketing materials, document filings, web hosting, and other associated costs are met through our personal monetary contribution to the organization. It is our way of giving back to LumenSparQ.

We are so grateful for our donors’ support and for everyone who shares in our mission. We hold firm to this level of transparency in our operations and welcome feedback from the community at large.

Double Your Impact Today!

We are so grateful to a private foundation in Los Angeles that just pledged $1250 in a dollar for dollar matching campaign! Every dollar you donate from here until the end of the year will be matched up to this amount. We can double the impact for our Lumenaries and SparQs, as 100% of these donations go directly to support their work.

Please help us reach our goal before year’s end!

Thank you!

Do You Have a Hero in Mind?

In our work to spotlight and support local heroes in education, we reach out to our connections across Los Angeles for leads on potential candidates. We search for educators, students, and others involved in schools that share the following characteristics.

A Lumenary is an individual or group that:

  • works at a school or supports an educational institution,
  • makes a positive impact on students or community members in an underserved area (often doing so through work beyond her/his current job),
  • demonstrates an understanding of the community’s needs with a project that can inspire others.

A SparQ is a student or student group that:

  • takes on a project to help to solve a problem impacting their peers or a community in need,
  • focuses on themes such as poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, racial inequality, social justice, and others that we value as an organization;
  • demonstrates a strong passion for the project and a desire to make a positive impact.

These pioneers are already doing meaningful work. The mission at LumenSparQ is to help them reach higher ground and share their story with the world.

If you live in Los Angeles and have someone in mind who embodies the role of a Lumenary or SparQ as described above, please reach out to us through the contact form, giving a brief description of the hero(es) and the work they do.

Our team evaluates all candidates and strives to connect with as many as possible. We are grateful for your thoughtful consideration of potential candidates.

Lumenaries & SparQs

As we spotlight and support our local heroes, we place them in two distinct categories. The first category is for adults, be they teachers, administrators, or staff, performing a social good.

We call them Lumenaries (intentional spelling to match our organization’s name).

Support for Lumenaries may come in the form of financial assistance to further enhance or maintain the project on which they are working, say an after school program for parent education. Support may involve providing supplies a teacher needs to coordinate an after school event for students and families. Help may come through professional development to increase a faculty’s technology skills to improve teaching during remote learning.

The second category is for students, those that go above and beyond the regular school day to take on a passion project that impacts others in need.

We call them SparQs.

These students may be working toward a solution to a local community problem, like food insecurity, or helping to bring awareness to broader societal issues, like systemic racism or gender equality. Support for SparQs may include financial assistance to fill a gap in funding their project, providing materials needed as they engage in their work, or possibly hands-on resources through volunteer support.

We will best understand our heroes’ actual needs as we come to know their story deeply. Through this discovery, the details of their mission come to light, and we can determine our clearest and most effective path to support them. Every story is different, and every need is thereby unique. We remain flexible as an organization to assist these heroes in the most effective manner possible.

In the coming months, the website will have links to our heroes’ stories with pages dedicated to Lumenaries and SparQs. We invite you to learn more about each of these and consider what role you may play in future projects.

Building a Team

“Sometimes the most ordinary things could be made extraordinary, simply by doing them with the right people.” 

Nicholas Sparks

As a kid, I would hear the old saying, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!” This statement, masterfully applied when things weren’t going as anticipated, reinforced the notion of going it alone and trusting no one. Over the years, having worked in institutions where collaboration and teamwork were not just encouraged but essential for success, I have come to embrace precisely the opposite.

Last night we welcomed two new members to our Board of Directors, Christine and Armando Franco. Both Christine and Armando bring a lifetime of teaching, working with youth, and a deep passion for making this world a better place. Importantly, we carry decades of friendship and trust with the Francos into this new working relationship, and the excitement over this new venture is palpable.

We have only held our second board meeting, and the reality has begun to creep in that what we are doing can and will have a lasting impact on communities and schools here in Los Angeles. There is much work ahead, but it is less daunting knowing that we have new team members at our side ready to take on the challenges and adventures that await us.

We closed the evening with the Francos making MyIntent bracelets. Their word choices: Care, Give, and Healer. Befitting testimonial monikers.

Our Mission

“To spotlight and support our local heroes in education”

LumenSparQ Mission Statement

Here at LumenSparQ, our mission is to spotlight our local heroes and give support through financial, human, and material resources as best fit each situation. If we discover a local hero providing food and other necessities to families in need, we may support them with the person-power to package and distribute supplies. Or, our support may take the form of supplying specific goods they may be lacking. If a local hero is providing after school classes for parents, help can come from purchasing learning materials or through in-person professional development and coaching.

The critical point is that we don’t know what we may find with each new case. We will maintain a high level of flexibility to support in ways where our strengths are the most impactful and our existing resources most helpful.

In addition to these forms of support, we want to share our hero’s experience with a broader audience. We will focus a spotlight on our hero’s story through our website and social media outlets, share the good work, and inspire others to get involved.


LumenSparQ, Why the Name?

Lumen – A measurement of light, the approximate amount of light emitted from one birthday candle. 1

Spark – a small fiery particle thrown off from a fire, a trace of a specified quality or intense feeling. 2

When brainstorming a potential name for the organization, we knew we wanted it to meet specific criteria. The name should:

  • Relate to our mission and vision;
  • Be unique, easy to pronounce, and “spark” curiosity;
  • Hold a bit of quirkiness or whimsy to stick in the mind of the viewer.

We felt that a word related to “light” was important. Light conveys positive thoughts and intentions. Shining a light on something brings awareness. Carrying a torch can define love or victory. In hard times, we hold out hope for the light at the end of the tunnel. A superstar shines bright.

A spark, or in our case, the liberal spelling “sparq” with a Q, can signify the start of something new, or the spreading of ideas. The added definition of “a trace of a specified quality or intense feeling” further reinforces our mission to support heroes passionate about the work they do.

Through this process, we arrived at LumenSparQ, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Well, our history is still ahead, waiting to be told.


A Long Time Coming

We have discussed and dreamed about the idea of creating a nonprofit organization for years. We knew we wanted to positively impact people’s lives, particularly people at an economic disadvantage or facing struggles that most of us might never encounter.

We also knew that we wanted to start in the field we knew best, education. Because of our connections to the people and resources in this field, and because public education is a sector in great need at all age levels, this was a desirable starting point.

Our focus areas may likely shift over time, as we grow as an organization and our mission evolves. For now, we would like to focus on spotlighting local heroes that are already doing good work and supporting them through financial, human, and material resources. Each case is unique, and our response will reflect that uniqueness accordingly.

If you are reading this, then you likely share our hope to make the world a better place, and you probably care about the public education system and hope to support efforts to improve it. We’d love to hear from you.

Where do we hope to be a year from now? If we can successfully fund four projects, once a quarter, we would be very satisfied. It may seem like a small goal, but it’s more than we are doing now, and that’s a good thing.

If you want to play a role in this journey, however large or small, please reach out to us.

Welcome to LumenSparQ!

John and Katya, co-founders.