The first annual SPARC Conference was held last Friday. The event aimed to give young Sylvan Lakers a chance to discover a passion and build on it.
On December 9, students from all over Sylvan Lake were given the opportunity to participate in multiple workshops put on by the Flipside Youth Centre which focused on arts and culture in the community.
“The idea is for kids to find something they have an interest in,” Organizer Deshon Lennard said. “If they already have that interest – they can enhance it with professionals who are established.”
These professionals included multiple guests from the fields of photography, music, film, improv, cooking, performing, music and many more. Funding for the event was provided by an Arts and Culture Grant form the Government of Alberta, which Lennard and his organizing team were keen on putting to good use.
“They thought the best way to use the grant and serve as many kids as possible would be an event like this,” Lennard said. “We have a group of kids Grades 9-12 who helped plan everything.”
The event was keynoted by Calgarian international performer, Transit – who highlighted the day with an inspiring hip hop performance. Lennard was happy that Transit could share his story with youth present at the conference.
“We tried to bring him in a few years back and we are excited to share his story and how he made a career through finding his spark,” he added.
Transit was pleased to share his musical gifts with the youth present. He added he fondly remembers being their age and looking for an outlet of expression.
“Music is something that really affected me when I was younger so I like going into different schools and doing different work with youth,” Transit said. “Music is such a powerful tool for youth.”
Transit, who usually performs in traditional hip hop settings like night clubs, likes to give back to communities through his music and consistently works alongside the Boys and Girls Club of Calgary to help empower young people.
“It’s always nice to take a break from other shows and go where you first loved music – which is when you were a kid,” he said. “I make sure I keep all of the songs positive and I try to be intentional about the lyrics. Some of the songs are ironic or sarcastic so I want to make sure the message is conveyed properly to the youth here.”
Transit was able to win over the group present at the conference after some initial shyness.
“At that age – it can be really hard to participate,” he said “You feel like everyone is looking at you. It’s about being open with the audience and hoping they will reciprocate that. If you believe in what you are doing, then it’s a lot easier for the audience to do so as well.”
Transit hopes his journey of expression can be an inspiration to young people looking to break out.
“If one person can come away with a new outlet – that’s awesome,” he said “They don’t have to pursue it all the time, but to have the tool of expression – whether through journaling or poetry – is a powerful thing,”
He added “when you are a kid, you go through so much pressure including family drama, school and other drama. If you have some sort of tool in terms of writing – it can make a big difference.”
Transit was happy that SPARC was willing to let him use rap as a means of expression and education.
“There might be one kid here who resonates with this kind of music,” he said. “Rap is not usually seen as something you bring into a school so it’s nice when the education system realizes the benefits of using hip hop as a tool to reach kids.”
Lennard is hoping to bring this event back in the future.
“We are hoping this is the just the first annual Find Your SPARC Conference,” he added.