About Sparkaction

What is Sparkaction?

Learn. Connect. Impact. SparkAction is a collaborative journalism and advocacy platform and service to mobilize action for and by young people. We bring together the best ideas, data, stories and calls to action to link diverse work and help all of us make a difference. Our site and services are designed to help you learn more about what matters for young people, get tools to drive change, reach policymakers and engage your networks. SparkAction is where change happens.


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Our Mission

We are a collaborative journalism and advocacy platform to mobilize action by and for children and young people. Our site, advocacy services, action alerts, and social media are designed to:
  • Connect concerned adults and young people to compelling stories, context and accurate information on children’s issues
  • Share tools, best practices, and customized trainings on how to take action and make a difference for the issues you care about.
  • Elevate the voices and perspectives of young people.
  • Break down barriers in the child and youth field to strengthen connections between organizations and agencies to create a stronger, more unified voice for children and youth.
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.

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Our Staff


Caitlin Johnson, Co-Founder & Managing Editor

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.

Thaddeus Ferber, Co-Founder

Thaddeus works in bi-partisan fashion to promote evidence-based policies that help communities achieve collective impact for all youth (especially those disconnected from school and work) and that incorporate youth voices. On the federal level, he drafted policy recommendations that were adopted by the White House Task Force for Disadvantaged Youth in the George W. Bush administration, and recommendations that were adopted by the White House Council for Community Solutions in the Obama Administration. He helped to orchestrate National Youth Summits for the George W. Bush and Obama administrations; to craft the Federal Youth Coordination Act, which created an interagency council to align federal efforts for children and youth (signed by President George W. Bush); and to build legislation to create Performance Partnership Pilots, which enable communities to blend fragmented federal programs in innovative ways to help disconnected youth (signed by President Obama).  In partnership with the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions and Gap Inc., Thaddeus launched the Opportunity Youth Network, bringing together the nation’s leading corporations, foundations, nonprofits and young people to reconnect young people who are not in school and not employed. His efforts to promote evidence-based policymaking include leading several learning groups composed of researchers and government officials.  Thaddeus joined the Forum in 1998. Before that, he worked at the President’s Crime Prevention Council during the Clinton administration, the Stanford Center on Adolescence, the John Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities, the HOME Afterschool Project in Alameda, Calif., and ELEM, a nonprofit for runaway, homeless and neglected Israeli and Arab youth. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Youth Development and Policy from Stanford University. His honors include the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, the Capitol Advantage Civic Award, the Mobilize 08 Award and the Champion of Juvenile Justice Award.

Elly Belle Weinstock, Content Strategy Specialist

ellyElly is a communications strategist and writer with a passion for youth empowerment, advocacy, culture and media. Elly is most passionate about youth development, reproductive health, mental health, advocacy for the LGBTQIA community, immigration, and advocacy for sexual assault survivors—and she's written about all of it and more for outlets like Bust and Teen Vogue, where she's a regular contributor. She has worked for organizations focused on social change and human rights such as The Fresh Air Fund, Camino Public Relations, and PEN America. Elly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Religion from Hofstra University, where she first found and honed her passion for advocacy.

In her spare time, Elly enjoys drinking intense amounts of coffee while attempting to read five books at once, and most enjoys exploring everything New York City and its boroughs have to offer, including going to spoken word poetry shows, literary events, and museums. She also gets a kick out of cooking new recipes and pretending she's competing on a Food Network show.

Caitlin Kawaguchi, Digital Engagement Specialist

Abeer Pamuk, Atlas Corps Fellow
Frances Medina, Social Media Strategy Consultant
Max Miller, Content Production Associate

Max Miller is primarily a video producer and graphic designer who specializes in 2D digital artwork, video and voiceover projects. He is also interested in content strategy and website and social media metrics. Before heading to college, he served as an intern with SparkAction and he now provides content management and video support to the team, while also working as an independent video and design consultant based in the Washington, DC area.  




Danielle Varner, YWCA Academic Intern
Danielle is a high school senior who has been taking college courses at Kingsborough Community College. Her current interests are psychology, criminology and business. She is decicing where to attend college in the fall of 2018.
Danielle is also active in photography and spoken word poetry.
From Danielle: "Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, I grew up surrounded by great diversity and wonderful opportunities. I consider myself very active in my community. Most recently, I joined a program called Junior Achievement where I assist third graders with their reading and writing skills. Above all, I love people and I can’t wait to see where life takes me next."
Janasia Walker

Janaisa Walker, our Journalism and Advocacy Fellow, is currently a sophomore at Syracuse University, the first member of her family to attend college. A talented writer with a passion for justice, Janaisa reports, writes and supports our youth-voice content series.


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

Jennifer 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.

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