Archives: 2014 & Earlier

Tom Coyne

Philadelphia
(215) 262-1459
www.sparkthewave.org

Age: 27

Salary: $12,000 for 20 hours a week.

About the Program: The nonprofit Spark the Wave (STW) partners with youth-serving organizations to provide free after-school and weekend seminars for middle and high school-age youth. The sessions focus on communication, leadership, service-learning, project planning and diversity. STW also hosts a six-day camp, called Wave Week, after which participants are assigned to either an STW staffer or one of its professional partners, who touch base with participants each month.

His Job: Coyne attended the camp in 1995 as a high school freshman. After returning to the United States from a Peace Corps posting 10 years later, he began volunteering with STW and eventually took the part-time position as program director. He oversees the seminars, long-term mentoring and the service leadership camp. Coyne holds another part-time job (with the Gift of Life organ donor program) and plans to apply to medical school.

Best Part: "The opportunity to make an impact on today’s youth, similar to the influence this organization has provided in my life. It kind of got me from being on the sidelines to being involved. It gave me the skills to have an impact."

Worst Part: "Dealing with rejection" from funders. "Certain times, grants are available and our mission won’t be exactly what they’re looking for; their goals and our goals don’t match. They’ll be interested in funding mentoring and education, and somehow what we do doesn’t exactly comport with their needs."

Memorable Moment: "Last year, before I had taken the job as program director, I was just a volunteer in the general staff, and I was leading a core class. We teach in teams of four to five folks. The youth staff is made of younger ones – late high school and early college. Having seen them at that first meeting, and now watching them, the way they are getting the message across, it’s a major motivating factor."

Does Mandatory Volunteering Work? "I go back and forth on that. It’s beneficial, but to think they’ll be able to do service and that alone will drive them to do it continually? If you just mandate service without skill-building, it’s not likely. Show them the ability to make change, and you can create lifelong volunteers."

Service Alone Isn’t Enough: Many youth get "involved in volunteering, either for personal reasons or being required to do community service for their schools and helping for their college applications, but they are not being taught the valuable skills of leadership, communication and group dynamics. Administrators and society feel these skills will just come automatically from showing up to complete their service hours." That is where STW "fills a major void."

Part-Time a Plus: "I think my job eventually needs to be a full-time position. Financially, we need to get to that point. This works for me right now, though, because I’m looking to expand beyond the service world, possibly get my medical degree. … It’s a win-win situation right now."

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