Focusing its attention on the family, SPARK Ohio is an intervention program that works with families, schools and the community to prepare preschool children for kindergarten.

“The importance of our work with children and families is validated every year when SPARK children enter kindergarten eager and confident,” said Joni Close, executive director. “Our evaluation results continue to show that SPARK is helping children and families enter school ready.”

There is a well-documented link between poverty and lack of academic achievement, Close said.

She explained that poverty often hinders a child’s ability to succeed in school, and school success is linked to the ability to break an intergenerational cycle of poverty. She said research indicates that children who are ready to meet kindergarten expectations when they start school are more likely to succeed throughout their lives by completing high school, finding employment and becoming positive, productive contributors to society.

Research also indicates that a smooth transition from one educational setting to the next is a critical component of school readiness that may not only predict children’s future school success, but also set the tone for their behavior and coping skills throughout their lives, Close said.

SPARK Ohio is an extension of the Sisters of Charity Foundation’s Quality Child Care Initiative (QCCI), a comprehensive effort to improve early education and care in Stark County.

The initiative is focused on improving the quality of early education and care in Stark County, based on the belief that every child deserves a good start in life and that all families should have access to high-quality early education and care, regardless of their ability to pay.

The initiative seeks to ensure that Stark County’s children, from birth through age 8, receive the finest early education and care in the country.


WHAT: Improving the quality of early education and care in Stark County.
BOARD MEMBERS: Robert F. Belden, chairman; Ronald Becker, vice chairman; Jacqueline Bollas Caldwell, secretary; David Cornet, treasurer; Ronald J. Manse, CPA; Fendrich R. Clark, Joni T. Close (ex officio), Lynne Dragomier, Daniel J. Fuline, Monsignor Lewis Gaetano, Patricia Gramoy, David C. Kaminski, Susanna H. Krey (ex officio), Dr. Michael H. Linz, Judge Sara Lioi, John J. McGrath, Kathleen M. Poporad, Geraldine Radcliffe, Sister Catherine Walsh, and Dr. George T. Williams.
PROCEEDS: Benefit the program.
DONATIONS: SPARK was initially funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in partnership with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton. Multiple funders and private donations now help support the program along with the foundation.To donate, visit or call 330-454-5800.

About The Author

Denise Sautters

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.” I have carried these words from Desiderada close to my heart since I started working at The Repository more than 40 years ago. The same holds true with my work for About. All of us have a story to tell. I want to be the one to tell it.

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