The Spark Grant during the Pandemic

Creative Mather teachers were active in their search for ways to keep their students active and engaged. Three of the requests for Spark Grants this year demonstrated the commitment and imagination in their requests for funds.

Chris Smith, a music teacher, requested funds to enroll 120 of his students in a program that allowed them to compose music from their homes. The Soundtrap subscriptions gave these students the opportunity to be creative, have a sense of joy in a difficult time, and kept them connected to their high school. Fortunately, in spite of the pandemic, modern technology allowed them to share with us and each other, some of their compositions.


Adriana Johnson, a Counselor and Drama teacher, noted the need for her students to stay focused and creative while helping others. She requested funds for yarn and needles so her students could learn to knit and participate in the Linus Project, a not-for-profit that provides new handmade blankets to children in need. The students were able to gather on Zoom and share the delight of helping others.

 In 2019, we were able to fund a field trip for 38 AP English students to The Court Theatre in Hyde Park. They attended a performance of “Oedipus Rex” and took a tour of the University of Chicago campus. Their pandemic request was quite different. This year, these same creative teachers, Jessie Moskowitz and Mary Rose O’Shea, were concerned about their AP students not having the opportunity to experience advanced testing with feedback. Although unusual, we funded their request. Appreciative students wrote, “I now know what I need to focus on in terms of my weakness in the test”, “Knowing how stressful it can be in the future was very anxiety-relieving…” “It gave me a chance to know what to expect in the real AP test.”

The Spark Grant Fund was created in 2012 with a donation from Joel Hellman in honor of his cousin, Carol Hellman Dragon, for the continual efforts she has made on behalf of Mather High School students. With its emphasis on the arts and sciences, the purpose of the fund is to offer Mather students innovative and supplemental experiences, beyond what is funded through CPS. Since its inception, the Fund has responded to 47 requests and granted $13,491.00.