Northeast High’s SPARC program will fly once again

It looks like the Northeast High astronauts stuck up on the International Space Station will be rescued after all.

The school’s Space Research Center, or SPARC, which was shut down this year for lack of funds like every other nonsports extracurricular activity, just got an injection of funds and will resume next month.

Northeast High’s Class of 1977 ran a fundraiser on its Facebook page and on Jan. 14 turned over more than $11,000 to the director of the magnet school to keep the afterschool science program running, and former SPARC astronaut Burt Dicht reported another $900 was added by week’s end.

“The money will be put into a separate account under the NEHS Alumni Association, ensuring the funds will be used only for SPARC,” Dicht wrote on the class’s Facebook page. “And we will get periodic reports on how the funds are being used.”

All good news for the more than 100 kids who participate in the SPARC program.

“Yesterday, we had a large meeting in the shuttle room with school administrators, alumni association, SPARC alumni themselves, teachers and students about funding the program in the future,” student Jeremy Cruz told the Northeast Times on Jan. 16. “Overall things are starting to look up and SPARC will start again in February,” he stated.

And the kids who twice a year go on virtual space flights or man mission control at the science magnet school inside Northeast have to get ready for their spring mission — to bring back astronauts left behind after a virus “killed” three others in December.

That dark December script that Cruz wrote left open the idea of the spring rescue, but the cut in extracurricular activities scrubbed that mission until the Facebook SPARC fundraiser started Dec. 30.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than a week, said Dicht, who was SPARC astronaut his senior year.

But all this outpouring of love and money solves only this year’s cash problem. A long-term funding source has to be found to keep the program, which started in the 1960s, flying.

The money situation for extracurricular activities is looking “pretty dire” for the next few years, Dicht said last week.

An external funding source has to be found, he said.

“We want a sustained effort,” Dicht said. “We are considering some fundraising ideas … maybe, an annual event.”

Both Cruz and Dicht said there are tentative plans for an open house in early February.

The idea is to show off SPARC and, perhaps, have a short simulated mission so guests can see what the program means to the students.

“This is something that tries to engage them,” Dicht said of SPARC’s use of math, medical and science schooling.

“There’s no experience like it anywhere else.” ••