SPARC: Every Child Is a Star

SPARC: Every Child Is a Star

“Own Your Individuality.”

Each month we will highlight a community program that aligns with the values of SoulVision Magazine. We believe engaging with one’s community is critical to fostering positive change in the world.

For our March issue, we highlight The School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC, a nonprofit community-based youth performing arts organization based in Richmond, Virginia. Their Director of Communications and Engagement, Sara Marsden, explains that the purpose of SPARC is to “Get kids to recognize and use the gifts that they’ve been given through the performing arts.”

Their LIVE ART program allows those with disabilities and “typically developing” youth to work together in a diverse collection of visual and performing arts classes for nine months. Here, they can develop great friendships and even greater understanding of one another. LIVE ART uses SPARC’s CARE (compassion, acceptance, respect, and empathy) curriculum to help students develop important interpersonal skills.

“Get kids to recognize and use the gifts that they’ve been
given through the performing arts.”

The performing arts organization works heavily with local schools, nonprofits and those in the community that positively benefit youth. For this year’s MLK Day of Service, the owners of Little Nomad invited singer, actor, and author Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton fame to Richmond to speak with SPARC students and members of the Richmond community. Students were given the chance to ask the Tony Award-winning actor questions about his career as a Broadway actor.

Leslie Odom, Jr. and SPARC students photo by Jim Hale
SPARC LIVE ART students performing with Jason Mraz at LIVE ART Love, photo by Eric Morgensen
SPARC students, photos by Jim Hale

Sara also shared with us an inspirational story about a talented LIVE ART student named Shayla “Shayy” Winn. After complaining about her constant headaches to her doctor, it was discovered that she had a brain tumor. In the process of removing this brain tumor, she became legally blind. This did not stop Shayla from performing as the title character in the musical, Aida, at her high school, Thomas Dale. She also went on to perform as the lead again, in SPARC’s summer production of the popular musical. She worked tirelessly to get it right. SPARC even placed different textures on the stage so her bare feet could feel where she was as she went about her role. She continues to follow her dreams and on March 6, she will appear on American Idol. She is a testimony to the work of SPARC and the lesson of perseverance. SPARC reminds us to accept each other’s differences so everyone can thrive.  

You can find more on SPARC by visiting If you would like to volunteer with SPARC, you can email