SparkOpportunity Winner: Christopher Judge

June 13, 2012


Christopher Judge founded Aspire, Inc. to address leadership challenges for young people in the philanthropy sector. His idea for a program to teach young people skills necessary to become effective nonprofit leaders won him an Adult Ally Award from the SparkOpportunity Challenge.

View Christopher's Challenge entry >>    |    Meet all the winners >>

Here, Christopher shares more about his project in a Q&A with Sparkaction.

What's your idea?  In the nonprofit sector, limited funding and turnover among leaders can often lead to an inability to properly manage organizations, which is a shame considering their noble causes. Young people hoping to work in the nonprofit sector can easily get burned out and frustrated after their first few years in the field due to this lack of management.

The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) aims to remedy this. YEP selects young people ages 15-23 to participate in a semester-long training internship during which they learn the techniques and skills necessary to become effective nonprofit leaders. Upon completion, graduates will have knowledge of effective and sustainable approaches to giving: insisting on accountability, setting up quantifiable goals to measure success, and trimming the fat in administration.

Why did you decide to submit to the Challenge?  I founded Aspire, Inc. in January of this year. The Challenge looked like a great way to give our programs some exposure and also get some more feedback on how our programs can have an impact as we deploy them.

What in your life or background inspired you come up with the idea?  I have worked in the nonprofit sector for a number of years, and have often been frustrated with what I felt was a lack of training for leaders. I modeled the Youth Empowerment Project on a training institute that I designed many years ago with the addition of an increased commitment from participants and group projects to make it more challenging and comprehensive for youth.

What will you do with the grant money?  Most of the money will be used to obtain a tax-exempt status, which is almost complete. Some will be used in the recruiting process next spring as we contact schools, colleges, youth centers, and other leadership groups for 2013-2014 participants. I will also use part of the grant to fund the first group project for YEP participants. There will be many great minds behind it!

Why do you feel it is important to help other youth?  When I was considered a "youth" we were thought of as "the voice of tomorrow."  I feel that has changed and evolved quite a bit. Youth are still the voice of today and the rest of our lives. I look around at other adults today and see too many who are uneducated, frustrated, and just don't care. For young people around me, hope has turned to resentment and apathy. If there was ever a time that we need passionate people to get involved and re-capture a sense of hope, it's now—and it is our youth who need the voice to do it.

What are you hoping that your idea accomplishes?  I want the Youth Empowerment Project to help young leaders succeed in whatever they choose while giving them real experience in the nonprofit sector so they can find, in their own time, how they can make a difference. It takes a lot more hard work than some people realize.  I hope YEP will be one of the cornerstones of Aspire, Inc. and that the youth who take part will continue to collaborate on other projects and use each other as resources to continue strengthening their leadership as they move forward.

Any fun talents or hobbies you would like to share with us? I used to be a figure skater. That energy got channeled creatively on stage as I did a lot of work in community theater before moving to Denver. Now I'm on the board for And Toto Too, a theater company in Denver.  I hope to get back on the stage again soon!

Follow Christopher & Aspire, Inc at @ChrisAspires!


Meet all the SparkOpportunity Challenge winners >>

The SparkOpportunity Challenge was a crowdsourcing competition for young people to share their ideas on how to create local jobs and opportunities for youth.  The Challenge was developed by SparkAction and the Youth Leadership Institute and joined Jon Bon Jovi in support of the White House Council for Community Solutions. Learn more >>