What is a Spark?

A person’s spark is what they are really passionate about, an activity or quality or talent that unleashes their energy and joy, one they can imagine doing for a long time, one that may allow them to make a unique contribution to the world.

What's Your Spark?

Each of us, young or old or in-between, has or can have at least one spark. A few people seem to know their spark from an early age, but most of us discover our sparks over time, through multiple opportunities and experiences.

It’s never too early to start providing opportunities for your child to find her or his spark, and you can keep on doing it as long as they are with you! Need some ideas for getting started?

Download this guide to help you explore sparks with your child.



Did You Know?

    When young people know their sparks and have several caring adults who know and support those sparks, they are more likely to:
  • Be healthy physically
  • Be good stewards of the earth and its resources
  • Volunteer to help other people
  • Be socially competent
  • Have a sense of purpose
  • Avoid violent behavior
  • Have higher grades in school
The good news is: Approximately 69% of U.S. teenagers say they have a spark in their lives. That’s wonderful!

But the bad news is: 31% of U.S. teenagers don’t think they have a spark—that’s about 12 million lives waiting for their spark to ignite.

A spark supporter is a person who knows and supports a young person’s sparks. Only about 37% of young people surveyed had both an identified spark and three or more spark supporters.

Learn how you can be a spark supporter!


Many of the settings in which youth live their lives could be more attuned to learning and nurturing young people’s sparks. Here are the percentages of youth we surveyed who said these settings help them develop their sparks:

  • Schools: 35%
  • Congregations: 23%
  • Youth Organizations: 21%
  • Neighborhoods: 6%


  • For these findings and more, turn to Peter Benson’s groundbreaking book, Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers (San Francisco:Jossey-Bass, 2008).  
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    1. Peter Scales, Eugene Roehlkepartain, and Peter Benson, Teen Voice 2009: The Untapped Strengths of 15-Year-Olds (Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute, 2009).