Liftoff for Northeast High SPARC program looks promising

Forget about dark matter and God particles. A lot of the universe seems to be paperwork. For the Northeast High students who want to explore space, the paperwork seems to be just about wrapped up.

Now, they’ve got to work on timing.

There’s money for the Space Research Center in Northeast’s Medical, Engineering and Aerospace Magnet School, and there’s a plan to keep it flowing, according to program astronaut alum Burton Dicht.

Setting a date for the program’s annual spring mission is yet to be done. Virtual liftoff to the International Space Station is looking good for late May, but that might conflict with some exam schedules, so the overnight flight is just being penciled in for now. SPARC missions to the moon, Mars or the ISS had been the end of April.

Despite its decades-long run at Northeast, SPARC was cut this year like all other nonsports extracurricular activities. Until an online fundraising drive brought in the cash to keep it going, SPARC’s mission control room was looking to be dark and stay dark. Thousands were raised, said Dicht, Class of 1977, who spearheaded the drive. In an April 25 interview, Dicht said a charter and bylaws for a SPARC booster club were completed on April 16 and a 14-member advisory board composed of alumni, teachers, school administrators and teachers was established.

More than $20,000 has been raised for SPARC so far. Some of that money, which came through the online drive that began early this year or through direct donations to the school’s alumni association, has been used for new equipment and new flooring in the Mission Control room, Dicht said.

“We’re well-positioned for next year,” he said, and SPARC’s immediate future is secure, he added.

The point of the boosters club is to keep the money coming in so there is no danger of SPARC closing down.

Another SPARC alum, Colorado businessman Gary Rosenzweig, donated eight new PCs, video gear and a large screen to the program.

Money still is being collected to keep the program going. Dicht said web fundraising is continuing at www.gofundme.com/5vw6bo

Checks, payable to the “NEHS Alumni Association Foundation,” can be sent to: Joan Scheidecker, NEHS Alumni Association, 1601 Cottman Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19111. Contributors should write “Project SPARC Fund” in their checks’ memo fields. ••