We all know that old adage: it takes a village…

Well, our “village” (of the entire Itasca area) is putting its money where its mouth is to ensure all Itasca Area’s young people have what they need to reach their goals. Nearly a half-dozen organizations have pitched in to make it possible for SPARK to reach its first major milestone of 2017: securing start-up resources to hire and house the first-ever SPARK staff.

Courtney Johnson started as SPARK’s Community Engagement Coordinator on February 6. (More about Courtney soon – watch the blog for an introduction).

Recruiting, officing – and yes, paying! – Courtney is a team effort that demonstrates the power and possibilities that can happen when resources are aligned toward a common goal. The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation, Itasca County, the Itasca Area Schools Collaborative and Blandin Foundation provided grants and allocations to fund the position. In addition, Itasca County is providing office space and support. The University of Minnesota also has been a vital partner. Their staff led the hiring process, and will provide supervision, training and human resources support.

“We thank everyone across the Itasca area who has committed time and energy to the vision and promise of SPARK,” says SPARK Council member Kim Geislinger of Ross Resources.  “The time we’ve taken together to define our dreams and transform them into action is paying big dividends now. We are working to make 2017 a pivotal year for the initiative. The broad, strong support to bring Courtney on board demonstrates that our region puts a high priority on connecting kids with the community resources they need to succeed. We’re looking forward to a great year that builds on this great beginning.”