About Us

SparkAction is a collaborative journalism and advocacy network to mobilize action by and for young people.

Mission  |  Our Partners  |  StaffContact |   Job Openings

There's no shortage of important information and stories, and it can be hard to stay on top of what matters and get the full picture. SparkAction's site and e-newsletters are your one-stop shop for news and tools to make a difference in the lives of children and youth. We gather, synthesize and promote the best information on a range of child and youth issues across the development spectrum, from organizations and leaders across the country.




Our Mission

As an online journalism and advocacy center by and for the child and youth field, SparkAction's site and e-newsletters aim to:

  1. Connect concerned adults and young people—whether they’re new to the issues or already activists—to compelling stories, context and accurate information on children’s issues, as well as tools to take action, from volunteering to advocating for better policies and programs.
  2. Help child- and youth-focused organizations effectively reach a broad audience (the public, professional peers, and policymakers) with their content and materials.
  3. Elevate the voices and perspectives of young people themselves.
  4. Break down silos in the broad child and youth field and strengthen connections among organizations and agencies to create a stronger, unified voice for children and youth.

SparkAction  gives visitors stories, information and tools to learn about a range of issues and to take action to improve policies and programs, and, ultimately, the fabric of our nation as a whole.

SparkAction is managed by the Forum for Youth Investment, a nonprofit "action tank" and the founder of the Ready by 21 initiative. Here's the story of how we were created.

Our Partners

We work in partnership with over 150 organizations across the country. Some are small local groups, some are large national organizations; all have the well-being of children and youth as their central mission.

We are also members of the following affiliate organizations:

The Children's Leadership Council is a coalition of more than 50 leading policy and advocacy organizations that are working every day to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in order to prepare them for school, work, and life.

The National Collaboration for Youth (NCY) is a 40-year old coalition of the National Assembly member organizations that have a significant interest in youth development. Its mission is to provide a united voice as advocates for youth to improve the conditions of young people in America, and to help young people reach their full potential. NCY's members include more than 50 national, nonprofit, youth development organizations. Collectively, its members serve more than 40 million young people, employ over 100,000 paid staff and more than six million volunteers and have a physical presence in virtually every community in America. 

The Campaign for Youth (CFY) is an alliance of organizations concerned about the persistence, yet seeming invisibility, of the challenges confronting young people in America who are disconnected from education, employment and opportunity. Established in 2002 by the leadership of national youth-serving organizations, CFY works to build a united voice for disadvantaged youth in this nation by raising awareness about their needs and advocating for the expansion of opportunities and supports that prepare youth for their future roles as workers, parents, civic leaders and engaged members of caring communities. 

In addition, our Launch Partners help spread the word about SparkAction and how it can help...

Our Audience

We serve a wide audience, ranging from professional child advocates to parents to policymakers and young people. We also reach health care professionals, journalists, researchers, grandparents, guardians, and others. Periodically we conduct surveys of our visitors and subscribers. Help us help you - you don't have to wait for a survey to tell us about yourself and how you use SparkAction. What do you use and what do you need?

Our Staff

Thaddeus Ferber, Co-Founder

Thaddeus is a national leader in online communications and advocacy; youth voice; and aligning inter-agency policy efforts for children and youth. In 2005, he launched the Youth Policy Action Center site to build a national constituency that contacts elected officials about youth issues. As Vice President of Policy at the Forum for Youth Investment, Thaddeus managed the transition of Connect for Kids from an independent organization to a project of the Forum, and oversaw the creation of SparkAction. He also helped draft and advance the Federal Youth Coordination Act, creating a council of the Secretaries of all major federal departments charged with aligning federal efforts for youth. The legislation was signed into law in 2006 but has yet to receive funding.  He continues to lead a campaign calling for the creation of a White House Office on Children and Youth, as well as a campaign calling for the creation of a National Youth Council to give young people a voice in the policy decisions which affect them.

While focused domestically, Thaddeus' work has also extended internationally. He led an international delegation through Ecuador to study efforts to connect youth development with community development, and has participated in numerous international forums discussing the creation and promotion of national youth policies. Thaddeus serves on the steering committees of the Campaign for Youth and the Children's Leadership Council, and has received numerous honors including the prestigious John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, the Capitol Advantage Civic Award, the Mobilize 08 Award, and the Champion of Juvenile Justice Award. Thaddeus joined the Forum in 1998 as a John Gardner Public Service Fellow. 

Prior to his work at the Forum, he assisted the President’s Crime Prevention Council (Chaired by Vice President Gore), the Stanford Center on Adolescence, the John Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities, and the HOME Afterschool Project in Alameda California. Internationally, Thaddeus worked for ELEM, a non-profit organization for runaway, homeless and neglected Israeli and Arab youth in distress. Thaddeus earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Youth Development and Policy from Stanford University.


Caitlin Johnson, Co-Founder & Managing Editor

CJ SparkAction

A writer and journalist, Caitlin specializes in child and youth issues and the impact of public policy on families and communities. She is a strong believer in the power of creative technologies to engage and move audiences, and to create an authentic platform for youth voice and youth-led movement building. This passion led her to co-found SparkAction.org, a journalism and advocacy platform to mobilize action for and by young people; she serves as its director.

Caitlin has written for City Limits, Yahoo News, Nation's Cities Weekly, KidsHealth and numerous other outlets, and has been a Casey Journalism Fellow. Caitlin has worked as a technical writer and editor in the areas of social policy, the environment, and sustainable development; assisted the Center for Law and Social Policy with its communications strategy and materials as interim director; and written for Sen. Leahy's Displaced Children & Orphans Fund and War Victims Fund. She has also taught English and creative writing to eighth graders in a Washington, DC, public middle school, and organized a nationally competitive youth poetry slam team. Caitlin holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Hoynes Fellow and received a Poe Fellowship; her fiction has appeared in Five Points, Gargoyle and other journals.


Jazmine Johnson, Editorial & Social Media Associate

JazmineBorn and raised in Silver Spring, MD., Jazmine is a graduate of Towson University with a B.A. in Communication with a concentration in Journalism. Her primary style of journalism is photojournalism. She has had internship experience with the Baltimore Sun and has also worked as an assistant photo editor for Towson’s independent newspaper, The Towerlight. An avid user of social media, Jazmine can be found tweeting, blogging and sharing photos on a number of platforms. Her goals include creating her own magazine centered on art and culture, as well as finding ways to indulge her passion for travel photography. When she isn’t talking endlessly about music, she is dishing about the best restaurants in DC. She joined Spark Action in 2014 to provide content support and coordinate our social media.




Janaisa Walker, Spring 2016 Fellow

Janaisa Walker, the SparkAction Journalism and Advocacy Fellow Spring-Summer 2016,is currently a senior at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, a public high school. In the fall, she will become the first member of her family to attend college.





Alleen Barber, Managing Editor, First to Finish College

Alleen Barber is a former op-ed editor and deputy editorial page editor for Newsday in New York. Before coming to Newsday's opinion section in 2000 as a production assistant, she was the managing editor at United Features Syndicate. Alleen attended Haverford College and holds an MA in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Amy Harfeld, Policy & Partnership Outreach Consultant

Amy Harfeld lends her expertise to SparkAction's partnerships and policy work, with a focus on child advocacy and juvenile justice and #RaisetheAge efforts. She is the National Policy Director/Senior Staff Attorney with the Children's Advocacy Institute. Harfeld has been an advocate, educator, and public interest attorney for over 15 years. She has she prosecuted child abuse and neglect cases for New York City’s Children’s Services, and served for three years as the Executive Director of First Star, a national child welfare non-profit in Washington D.C. Amy holds a JD from the City University of New York School of Law.


Shawnice Jackson, Editorial & Engagement Specialist

Shawnice Jackson is a young nonprofit professional commit- ted to building better and stronger pathways to opportunity for underserved and at-risk youth through mentoring, service, and advocacy. She started her undergraduate career as a criminology and social deviance major at Notre Dame of Maryland University but transferred to University of Baltimore to pursue her passion for communities and nonprofits as a human services administration major. Shawnice currently serves as a consultant for the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice (MOCJ) and The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions. She also serves as an advisory board member with The Opportunity Youth Network, a member of the National Council of Young Leaders, continued council member with The Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund and opportunity leader with Opportunity Nation.

Shawnice’s areas of expertise are nonprofits, youth development, and qualitative data management. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she has served as a data collection manager with University of Maryland, project coordinator for Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents, a Baltimore Rising program, volunteer and provider relations coordinator at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, and case manager for the MOCJ. Shawnice was recently invited to speak at the Corporation for National and Community Service’s 20th anniversary celebration and keynoted the 2014 Service Learning and Civic Engagement Conference. She continues to give of her personal time in support of the well- being of young people in her community as a court-appointed special advocate for abused and neglected children with CASA Baltimore City and volunteer Big Sister. She currently leverages her unique skill set as post-high school individualized services manager at Thread, a Baltimore- based nonprofit that engages under-performing high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom. In this role, she directly advocates and case manages Thread’s opportunity youth population in  crises.


Alison Waldman, Contributing Writer

Alison is an independent writer, dancer, photographer and graphic designer based in Washington D.C. She worked full-time with SparkAction as editorial associate for three years before launching her freelance business in which she teaches, researches, performs and collaborates with organizations and individuals in DC and beyond. In addition to working on other various projects, Alison currently performs with the Contradiction Dance company based in Brookland. See Alison's work at www.alisonwaldman.com

Jennifer Wheary, Founder & Co-Editor, First to Finish College

jenniferJennifer is a senior fellow with the policy organization Demos and writes regularly about education and economic opportunity for a wide variety of national publications. She is founder and co-editor of First to Finish College, a joint Demos-SparkAction media and research project dedicated to supporting first generation college students and the organizations that serve them.

Prior to joining Demos, Jennifer worked in the academic, non-profit, and private sectors. She consulted for schools in South America, designed and launched a successful online science journal, co-founded an adult literacy program, helped build a new business division at an Internet startup, and headed interactive research for the largest Spanish-language media company in the U.S. A first-generation college student herself, Jennifer holds a B.S. from Cornell University and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Max Miller, Editorial & Engagement Support

Bio coming soon

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