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The Spark


When people come together and talk about really interesting topics, great questions spark better understanding and opportunities for new ideas to form. On The Spark from WITF, hosts Scott LaMar and Aniya Faulcon start the conversations about what’s happening in the world and at home. Share your ideas at


Chambersburg, PA






When people come together and talk about really interesting topics, great questions spark better understanding and opportunities for new ideas to form. On The Spark from WITF, hosts Scott LaMar and Aniya Faulcon start the conversations about what’s happening in the world and at home. Share your ideas at




Is Pennsylvania outdoor recreation an untapped economic driver?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Pennsylvanians re-discovered or discovered the outdoors all around them. Outdoor recreation has always thrived in Pennsylvania with its vast natural resources, state parks, trails, hunting, fishing, sports and so many other activities. But it’s been only recently that outdoor recreation has been identified as an industry and economic driver in Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, outdoor recreation adds $17 billion to the state’s economy and creates 164,000 jobs. The state has plans to grow the outdoor recreation industry even more. Pennsylvania's Director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Nathan Reigner described who and what makes up the outdoor recreation economy on The Spark Wednesday,"We can think of them as including the stuff of outdoor recreation designers, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, repairers of clothing equipment, vehicles in outdoor recreation. We've got some fine brands coming out of Pennsylvania producing outdoor recreation equipment. So that's the first component of the industry. Second part of the of the industry or our experience providers, ski areas, mountain lodges, guides, outfitters, rental shops, food, beverage, lodging associated with outdoor recreation. And then we've got the third component of our industry and those who are our professionals, our creative professionals, our journalists, photographers, videographers, social media influencers working in the outdoors are technical professionals like mapmakers and guidebook writers, planners, designers, builders in this space. That's the first big component of our outdoor economy. The second big component of our outdoor economy is the contribution that the outdoors makes to community and economic development. And here we're really talking about quality of life, the quality of life for Pennsylvanians that live here now, and the quality of life that it can attract." Reigner said the plan going forward is to activate the outdoor economy,"I think what we are realizing now is this phenomenon of outdoor recreation, the investments we make in it, the infrastructure we build to support it, the people who work in outdoor recreation. The benefits that that system generate go well beyond fun. They go well beyond health. They go well beyond advancing our conservation and sustainability. It really is at the core of the productivity of our Commonwealth. And for many of our communities particularly, are more rural communities. It is, in fact, a pathway to a better future for them." Reigner pointed to Columbia in Lancaster County as an example of how outdoor recreation has helped revitalize a town,"The Northwest River Trail has been developed along the Susquehanna River. We have a crossing, new facility built along the river there. If we talk with the mayor of Columbia, if we talk to business owners, in the region, what we hear are stories about new entrepreneurial opportunities, new businesses opening up, and, visitors coming to town and those towns really, really thriving in a way that they hadn't been, a few years prior to the development of this outdoor recreation." Reigner was asked whether the development of outdoor recreation will have to be weighed against traditional housing and industrial development that creates tax revenue,"For our economic development, for industrial developments to be productive, they've got to have people who want to live and work around those. And for people to want to live and work around, in any given community, that community needs to have a high quality of life, which is a product of outdoor recreation, of arts and culture, of historic preservation, of good schools, of public safety, etc.. So, I don't think we look for the biggest number on the spreadsheet and put all of our eggs there. I think what we're trying to do, I think certainly with the Office of Outdoor Recreation, with the Economic Development Strategy, etc., is develop a well-rounded and...


The Rise Of The Phoenix: Trans Artist DDA discusses rising from the "ashes"

In celebration of Black History Month, Philadelphia-based Trans-artist and musician Diamond Anthony, known by the stage name D.D.A., has unveiled their latest musical endeavor, the album "Phoenix." D.D.A. is no stranger to the entertainment scene, having been in the music industry since 2020 and immersed in the world of drag for even longer. Their accolades include clinching the title of Mx. Philadelphia Leather for the 2020/2021 term and triumphing at the highly esteemed drag competition, Snatcherella 3000, in 2021. "Phoenix" comprises 10 tracks that traverse various musical genres, including classic hip hop, R&B trap, invigorating ballroom beats, and anthemic house rhythms. D.D.A.'s versatility as an entertainer and musician shines through each track, effortlessly navigating different vocal styles to match the distinct tones of each genre. The album captures her confidence, and the seamless transitions between songs showcase her artistry. One standout track, "Take My Breath Away," featuring Quinn Possible, lives up to its title, delivering a breathtaking experience. The instrumental is beautifully crafted, evoking chills on the first listen. When D.D.A. enters with their vocals, the song becomes a perfect blend of artistry. A noteworthy homage to Lauryn Hill occurs in the middle of the track, as it interpolates the iconic "Fu-Gee-La" by the Fugees. Quinn Possible's contribution adds grace and elegance, culminating in a flawless collaboration. The key changes towards the end of the track promise an unforgettable musical journey. D.D.A.'s "Phoenix" stands as a testament to her multifaceted talent, leaving listeners captivated by the artful fusion of genres and the artist's commanding presence. The album not only reinforces her musical prowess but also serves as a noteworthy contribution to the celebration of Black History Month. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


What's in store for STEAM gem Whitaker Center in Harrisburg?

The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts in Harrisburg is approaching its 25th anniversary. The Whitaker Center is a jewel of downtown Harrisburg and the region for families, children, students and adults to view and engage in science, movies and shows. It may be the premiere stop for "hands on" science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics or STEAM in Central Pennsylvania. Mary Oliveira is the President and CEO of Whitaker Center and joined us on The Spark Tuesday where she said the Whitaker Center is still re-emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and wants Whitaker to be a Central Pennsylvania destination. One of the unique aspects of the Whitaker Center is so many of the exhibits and programs are interactive, which Oliveira characterized as important,"People learn in a variety of ways -- whether it's hearing, reading, seeing and doing kind of combines all of that. For us, interactive and immersive stands out as a way that allows the parent and the child to do it together. That allows our professional educators to really see what they're teaching be executed. We start curriculum as early as three-years-old with our little learners on Wednesday mornings. And so teaching is one thing, but being taught back because of what they're showing and doing themselves is really a way to ensure that those lessons are being deeply embedded." The Whitaker Center is a popular destination for schools to take field trips as Oliveira noted,"I think it's really more about the environment that they're immersed in. When they're at Whitaker. Again, they're not sitting at a desk. They're not sitting in front of a laptop or a computer. They're really able to move around at their own pace and guide themselves as well. And some of that capability of being able to learn on their own and self teach as they go through all of our different stations, I think, imposes a a level of enjoyment and ownership to what they're experiencing there versus being drilled to by a teacher or an educator at Whitaker." Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Renowned historian Allen Guelzo talks Lincoln and democracy

Americans are hearing about democracy often today – whether it is resilient and its future in particular. Abraham Lincoln is considered America’s greatest president for holding the union together when the nation was at its greatest peril during the Civil War. Renowned historian and author Allen Guelzo’s new book Our Ancient Faith: Lincoln, Democracy and the American Experiment examines Lincoln’s vision of democracy and how he guided the nation during democracy’s most dire crisis. Lincoln was perhaps democracy’s greatest champion. Think about his words in the Gettysburg Address -- “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Guelzo’s book takes a unique angle – examining how Lincoln applied democracy in areas like the economy, culture, race and civil liberties. Allen Guelzo recently appeared at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg and spoke with The Spark's Scott LaMar. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


The Spark Weekly 2.18.2024

On this episode of The Spark Weekly: Honeybees have been dying by the millions over the last 15 years, but beekeepers may be the key to saving them. Also on the program, a memoir about a woman who realizes she is in love with her best friend and had been for 20 years. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Author Sam Melville discusses newest book 'Tween'

Author and filmmaker Sammi Leigh Melville, based in Harrisburg, wears multiple hats in the creative sphere. Not only is she the talent behind two novels, but she also contributes film reviews to TheBurg while serving as an event coordinator for Vidjam, dedicated to nurturing filmmaking in Central Pennsylvania. Melville's latest literary venture, "Tween," delves into the complex theme of mortality through the story of siblings Don and Cherry, who grapple with the aftermath of death. Cherry's struggle to come to terms with her brother's passing contrasts with Don's journey as he navigates the ambiguous space between life and death. Through "Tween," Melville offers readers a poignant exploration of grief and the existential questions surrounding mortality. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Lancaster AAPI Celebrates The Year Of The Dragon

This Sunday at 11 a.m., the Lancaster Asian American And Pacific Islanders (AAPI) organization is set to host a vibrant celebration for the Lunar New Year at Ewell Plaza. As a prominent Lancaster County-based group, their mission centers around advocating for and spotlighting the endeavors of the region's Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. This event marks a significant moment for the organization as they gather to commemorate the Lunar New Year, an occasion deeply rooted in tradition and cultural significance. The Lunar New Year celebration holds particular significance this year as it coincides with the Year of the Dragon, symbolizing strength, prosperity, and good fortune in many Asian cultures. Attendees can anticipate a lively atmosphere filled with traditional music, dance performances, and culinary delights, reflecting the rich tapestry of Asian heritage present in Lancaster. Moreover, this event serves as a platform to foster unity and solidarity within the community, providing an opportunity for individuals from diverse backgrounds to come together in celebration. Through cultural exchange and engagement, the Lancaster Asian American And Pacific Islanders organization aims to promote understanding and appreciation for the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander residents to the fabric of Lancaster. Notably, the choice of Ewell Plaza as the venue underscores the organization's commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, inviting all members of the community to participate in the festivities. Whether individuals are familiar with the traditions of the Lunar New Year or experiencing them for the first time, the event promises to be an enriching experience for all. As Lancaster continues to embrace its multicultural identity, events like the Lunar New Year celebration serve as important reminders of the diversity and vibrancy within the community. Through their ongoing efforts, the Lancaster Asian American And Pacific Islanders organization plays a pivotal role in fostering dialogue, understanding, and appreciation for the myriad cultures that call Lancaster home. This Sunday's Lunar New Year celebration at Ewell Plaza promises to be a joyful occasion, filled with cultural performances, delicious cuisine, and community spirit. The event not only honors tradition but also serves as a testament to the enduring strength and resilience of Lancaster's Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Tavon Parker's Journey: From Struggle to Inspiration

Tavon Parker's life embodies the classic tale of redemption and resilience, evolving from a troubled youth entangled in the pitfalls of street life to an inspirational figure driving positive change in his community. At just 14 years old, Parker displayed early an entrepreneurial spirit by earning money through lawn care services, a venture that saw him purchase a truck and enlist his older siblings for assistance. However, his academic aspirations suffered setbacks, leading to the loss of a scholarship and a return to his hometown of York, following his short stay at Millersville University as a athlete on a scholarship. Rather than succumbing to despair, Parker found himself drawn into the darker allure of the streets, resorting to drug dealing as a means of survival. However, a pivotal moment occurred on February 14, 2017, when Parker was arrested, marking the beginning of a transformative period during which he served a 14-month sentence in a state prison. Determined to break free from the cycle of crime and rebuild his life, Parker emerged from incarceration with renewed purpose and a commitment to his family. Returning to his roots, Parker reignited his passion for entrepreneurship, revitalizing his lawn care business, which blossomed into a full-time endeavor known as Tavon's Lawn Care. Yet, it was a tragic event in early 2020 that propelled Parker towards a higher calling. The senseless loss of his brother, Willie Hicks, in a barbershop robbery served as a catalyst for Parker to channel his experiences into a mission of empowerment and mentorship. Driven by a desire to steer young people away from the perils of street life, Parker founded The Advantage Program, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities and guidance to at-risk youth in York. Through initiatives such as job placements and educational outings, Parker seeks to broaden horizons and instill hope in communities where despair often reigns supreme. One such initiative saw Parker taking a group of youths on a transformative trip to Philadelphia's historic district, exposing them to experiences beyond their immediate surroundings. Furthermore, Parker's commitment extends beyond geographical boundaries, as he utilizes his platform to speak to youth nationwide, spreading messages of positivity and resilience. Central to Parker's approach is the notion of support and belief in the potential of every individual he encounters. By offering employment opportunities and lending a compassionate ear to the struggles of young people, Parker aims to foster a sense of belonging and purpose, empowering them to realize their inherent greatness. As Parker reflects on his journey, he remains steadfast in his conviction that with the right guidance and support, individuals can transcend their circumstances and achieve greatness. Through his unwavering dedication to uplifting others, Tavon Parker exemplifies the transformative power of resilience and the boundless possibilities that emerge from a commitment to positive change. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


New book examines why our free time is so elusive

How do you spend your free time? It’s a question many of us have been asked in a job interview but have we really thought about what we do in the time we’re not at work or school? In his new book Free Time: The History of an Elusive Ideal, Penn State Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Modern History, Gary Cross explores the history of how we have used our free time, how it’s changed with culture, economics, and politics and why often we don’t fully enjoy our free time. On The Spark Thursday, Cross said he wrote the book because he finds that many Americans find their free time unfulfilling, "It does strike me as there could be a greater balance in regard to how people used to maybe have it a little less fast and maybe a little slower and slower. I mean, much more, involving development of one's skills. One's, personal interest. We call it self-development, perhaps, and also spending more time engaging with the wider world, the real world, not the virtual world of the computer or the cell phone. Maybe, a greater involvement with other people through your church or through your organizations or what have you. And a lot of that has kind of disappeared in the past few years as, as our experiences with the world in free time has increasingly been funneled, say, through cell phones. We get the whole world on our cell phones, but we miss that reality of engagement with others and also the drive that we might have to develop ourselves." The book provides a history of free time and how it was spent. Dr. Cross writes that Americans' working beyond the 40-hours a week at their jobs, their desire to buy things, TV and other devices are what drives our free time today. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


"Keep Our Republic" taking on election trust issues in Pennsylvania

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a passersby about what kind of political system we would have and he reportedly replied: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Echoing Franklin’s words is Keep Our Republic, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that says its purpose is to "focus on the unconventional threats facing our election system, and on ways to help strengthen trust in our electoral system. We are most tightly focused on election integrity to assure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote, their votes are counted, and properly certified." More than three years after the November, 2020 election, polls show a majority of Republican voters still think President Biden's victory was illegitimate and there was cheating and fraud. That's even though there is no credible evidence of widespread fraud. Former President Donald Trump continues to claim the election was stolen from him and he actually won. Again, Trump and his allies have lost dozens of court cases claiming election fraud. What Trump has done is sow doubt and mistrust in elections. Keep Our Republic is concentrating its efforts on three swing states – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The chair of Keep Our Republic’s Pennsylvania Council is Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, was on The Spark Thursday and said that mistrust in the electoral process and the possibility of interference from foreign powers like Russia, China or Iran are threats to elections, but he added social media presents another challenge,"Social media as compared to, broadcasting and as compared to the print media really has no control over what people put on (post). And I don't mean illegal control. I mean, people can say just about anything they want to say. In the newspapers, they have editors. They have to make sure that they're saying something, that they're not going to get sued about. The same thing with broadcast media -- that doesn't happen when it comes to the social media and what we've seen in this country. Is a divide that keeps getting wider because people are looking at social media or media as a whole. Picking a camp, whether it be a red camp or blue camp, conservative, liberal, and only looking at that which they believe in and trust and not looking to see if they can find anything, maybe in the middle, maybe independent. So I think those are the fears that I have, going into November of this year." Corbett was asked how the polarization in the U.S. can be overcome and trust can be restored in elections,"I think education is part of that process, and it's going to go back to educating all the way back into the grade schools, the high schools, into the colleges. But I will circle back to what I think is the everyday process that we have of people going into camps and relying upon what they see or hear, whether it be CNN or MSNBC or Fox or whatever, and not sitting and discussing the issues with people they know. Government doesn't work by being one or the other. It's not easy. And it's kind of ugly to get there. It works by compromise." Support WITF: See for privacy information.


1040 for Peace continues Tax Day tradition

Harold, known as H.A., is more than just a name; he represents a symbol of hope amid global turmoil. As a pivotal figure within 1040 for Peace, a prominent organization committed to fostering peace in a world plagued by conflict, Harold stands as a beacon of change. The organization's mission goes beyond mere rhetoric, actively involving communities in their pursuit of peace through initiatives like public penny polls. Through thought-provoking articles and journals, they articulate their vision for a more humane approach to conflict resolution. Harold and his team tirelessly advocate for peacekeeping strategies that prioritize human welfare over hostility. Their efforts aim to challenge societal norms and redefine collective values towards a more peaceful coexistence. In a world often overshadowed by violence and discord, Harold's leadership underscores the importance of conscious activism and grassroots engagement in building a better future. As he continues to champion the cause of peace, Harold embodies the spirit of resilience and optimism, inspiring others to join the movement towards a more harmonious world. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Are beekeepers the key to saving honeybees that are in danger?

In the year that ended last April 1st, almost half of all honeybee colonies in the U.S. didn’t survive. That was the second highest death rate on record. Honeybees are crucial to the food supply, pollinating more than a hundred crops we eat, including nuts, vegetables, berries, citrus and melons. It's estimated that 35% of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants and honeybees are responsible for 80% of that pollination. Scientists said a combination of parasites, pesticides, starvation and climate change keep causing large die-offs. Beekeepers have taken on the role of trying to stabilize the honeybee population. On The Spark Wednesday was Gary Carnes, President of the Capital Area Beekeepers Association and an eighth generation beekeeper pointed out he has had to change how he raises bees because of the challenges the colonies face,"I have changed my business operation compared to what my father and I used to have. And, you talk about the losses in the [19]70s. If we went into the winter here in central PA with 100 colonies, we'll just use, for example. And we lost five colonies. The guys in the club [would say], What's up, old man? You had a bad year. Now, if you lose 50%, most people pat you on the back. You did pretty well. And if, a dairy man or the beef producer would lose 50% of his livestock every year, they would be up in arms." The non-native parasitic mite Varroa destructor has devastated millions of bees over the last 20 years. Carnes said he's constantly trying to fight off the mites. Carnes said he takes his bees to South Carolina during the winter months for warmer temperatures and bring them back to Pennsylvania in April or May. He indicated he refers to climate change as "crop change" because the number of crops being produced in Pennsylvania has dwindled due to a changing climate. Over though, Carnes said he is optimistic about the future of honeybees as we are learning more about how to keep them healthy. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Teach Jay explains to parents what they can do with their children and the PSSA test

In the realm of education, the contentious topic of standardized testing has ignited fervent debates among educators, parents, policymakers, and students. This divisive issue has long been a source of contention, with proponents asserting its crucial role in assessing academic performance and ensuring accountability, while detractors argue that it places undue pressure on students, constrains the curriculum, and exacerbates existing inequities. To shed light on the multifaceted nature of this debate, Urban Education Coach Teach Jay, has joined the conversation. Teach Jay brings a wealth of experience in navigating the complexities of urban education, offering a unique perspective on the standardized testing dilemma. As discussions unfold, the goal is to unravel the intricacies of how standardized testing impacts students, teachers, and the broader education system. The controversy surrounding standardized testing centers on its perceived benefits and drawbacks. Proponents argue that it provides an objective measure of academic achievement, allowing for comparisons across schools and districts. Additionally, they contend that standardized testing is a valuable tool for holding schools accountable and guiding educational policies. On the contrary, critics assert that these tests may not accurately capture a student's true capabilities, leading to a narrow focus on test preparation that limits the overall educational experience. Teach Jay's insights on The Spark provided a nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with standardized testing in urban education. And as the conversation continues to unfold, it will continue to delve into the impact on marginalized communities, potential alternatives, and the broader implications for the future of education. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Harrisburg University professor part of team that identifies new dinosaur species

Last month – some 70 million years after it lived – a new species of predatory dinosaur was identified. The newly named species -- Tyrannosaurus macraeensis -- was closely related to the iconic Tyrannosaurus rex. Researchers believe it may be T.rex's closest relative, even though it may have lived seven million years before T.rex. Harrisburg University of Science and Technology professor Dr. Steven Jasinski was a part of a team of researchers that made the discovery, which came 40 years after the dinosaur’s fossils were found in New Mexico. But just within the past 11 years, Jasinski and other researchers began studying the fossils of what was believed to be a Tyrannosaurus rex. On The Spark Tuesday, Jasinski spoke about how the researchers determined they had found a different species,"We have parts of the skull and we have some of the parts of the spine. The backbone, some of the vertebrae, or at least piece of the vertebrae. And previously, especially with the lower jaw that we had recovered, it looked similar to T.rex, most super large predatory dinosaurs that we find that are around this age and in this general region of the world, are all considered to be T.rex, because T.rex seems to be pretty expansive and all over the place. But smaller features of the jaw or pieces of the skull, especially around the eyes themselves, tell us once we looked more in depth, that this is distinct from T.rex. It's something new and different." Tyrannosaurus macraeensis may have been 35 feet long with different eyes and teeth than the T.rex. The discovery of Tyrannosaurus macraeensis has scientists rethinking how and where Tyrannosaurus rex evolved, according to Jasinski,"The thought was that we have really, really old members of the group from North America. They travel to Asia, and then they eventually traveled back to North America. And T.rex basically then came from Asia. And so that's what we always have assumed. But now finding older specimens that are more closely related in the southern part of the United States and southern North America, it looks like what we may have is that T.rex actually evolved in southern North America instead. And then some offshoots went to Asia, some just moved north into the north of the United States and Canada. And so it's painting us a different picture of where these animals are coming from and how they're evolving and how they're changing over time." The fossils of the T.macraeensis were found in 1983 and have been on display in a New Mexico museum. With the new discovery, museums throughout the world may be studying the fossils of what they thought were T.rex remains to determine what they actually have are bones from a Tyrannosaurus macraeensis. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


There's no stopping Jennifer Heasley

Jennifer Heasley's journey epitomizes the essence of a "Leap of Faith," as she transitioned from a 23-year teaching career to pursue her culinary dreams. Her venture began with launching her own catering company, which eventually led to the creation of Sweet Mama’s Mambo Sauce, now a thriving culinary franchise. With a cookbook, blogs, and her signature sauce, Heasley has made waves along the East Coast, with her products available in grocery stores, restaurants, and specialty shops across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and New Jersey. Moreover, her culinary prowess caught the attention of major clients, including catering for the NFLPA and the Penn State Football Team during the Super Bowl. Taking another leap of faith, Heasley and her daughter, Paige, embarked on a new venture by becoming part owners of the York Revolution, a significant move that reflects their entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to growth. Sweet Mama’s Mambo Sauce offers a range of eight flavors designed to tantalize any palate, and its popularity continues to soar, with distribution extending to Penn State University and online platforms. Heasley's entrepreneurial journey is a testament to her perseverance and willingness to embrace change, demonstrating that taking risks can lead to remarkable success. From humble beginnings to owning a stake in a professional sports team, Heasley's story inspires others to follow their passions and pursue their dreams, no matter the obstacles. With dedication and determination, she has turned her leap of faith into a thriving culinary empire, leaving a flavorful legacy in her wake. Website: Support WITF: See for privacy information.


How does money raised at Penn State Thon fight childhood cancer?

In the U.S., 16,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, and more children die from cancer than any other disease. Fighting, researching or finding a cure for childhood cancer is obviously as grave a topic as one could contemplate. But perhaps the annual dance marathon known simply as Thon, at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State University this weekend is one of the most joyful events staged anywhere or any time to raise money for such an illness that can bring so much sadness. Thon is a 46-hour, non-stop dance marathon that is the world's largest student-run philanthropy. Since its inception in 1973, Thon has raised more than $219 million to provide emotional and financial support to children and families that have been impacted by childhood cancer. The money generated by Thon goes to Four Diamonds at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey. On The Spark Monday, Suzanna Graney, Executive Director of Four Diamonds at Penn State Health Children's Hospital, said Four Diamonds has benefited from Thon since 1977,"e have been collaborative partners ever since, making it possible for Four Diamonds to cover the cost of care for all of our Four Diamonds families at, our Children's Hospital in Hershey. And to be a Four Diamonds family, your child would be diagnosed under the age of 22, living in Pennsylvania and getting your primary oncology care from Penn State Health Children's Hospital. We are covering all those costs that are not covered by insurance or other means, taking that financial pressure off of the family, because when cancer happens to a child, it happens to the entire family. So the other thing that we're able to do is provide a lot of support services for the patient and the family members to have everything that they need mentally, socially, emotionally, spiritually as they're walking this path together. So all of those specialty services like child life and music therapy and art therapy are covered for all of those kids in those families." Much of the money raised by Thon goes toward research. Graney added,"Finding new ways to use the current drugs that we have. Finding new applications of new drugs or new therapies using the body's immune system differently to activate your immune system to fight cancer is one of the biggest things that has happened in the last ten years. It's been exciting to be on the precipice of new discovery, and to be able to find what we talk about as local research that has a global impact. The research that's happening in Hershey, Pennsylvania, has the potential to change the world for kids everywhere. We're really excited because of Thon's steady support and the community support we've been funding, a number of researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine, two of those labs have been funded for more than a decade through Thon and Four Diamond support, and they are both on the cusp of opening clinical trials for kids, in the coming year, which means that what we've learned in that lab is now ready to go into patient care." Will Vincent, the Executive Director of Thon was asked what makes it special,"It is an entirely student run organization. But on the other side, we also have a tremendous amount of outpouring of support from Penn State alumni, corporate sponsors, and just the overall Penn State community and beyond. So there are students on this campus that work tirelessly all year long. Thon has become so much more than just a weekend in February. So our student volunteers work all year long. But the support that we get from every single person that has heard of Thon's mission and wanted to push it forward is absolutely tremendous. So it is a huge community that expanded. Its so far out just beyond Penn State's campus and just State College." Last year, Thon raised more $15 million. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


The Spark Weekly 2.11.2024

On this week's program, we speak with Berwood Yost about the latest Franklin and Marshall College poll. Also on the program, what we can learn about Health Equity. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


Thaddeus Stevens College: A beacon of light, hope, and inspiration

In a recent development within the realm of higher education, Governor Shapiro's Blueprint for Higher Education has sparked discussions surrounding accessible and affordable educational opportunities, coupled with transformative outcomes. At the forefront of this conversation is Thaddeus Stevens College, a state institution distinct from the PASSHE system, which has garnered attention for its impressive statistics. Thaddeus Stevens College boasts remarkable outcomes, with 97 percent of its graduates securing employment upon graduation. This figure is accompanied by a striking ratio of 22 job opportunities available per graduate, highlighting the college's commitment to equipping students with practical skills sought after by employers. Moreover, an impressive 95 percent of graduates choose to remain in Pennsylvania, contributing to the state's workforce and economy. During a discussion with University President Pedro Rivera on The Spark, the focus was on the college's mission to foster equitable access to higher education. Thaddeus Stevens College actively supports this mission by providing grant funding tailored to qualifying students. These funds cover essential expenses such as tuition, housing, meals, tools, and books, thereby alleviating financial barriers that often hinder students' pursuit of higher education. The college's emphasis on practical skills training aligns with the evolving demands of the job market, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared to meet industry needs. This approach not only enhances students' employability but also contributes to Pennsylvania's economic vitality by supplying skilled workers across various sectors. Thaddeus Stevens College stands out as a beacon of opportunity, offering a pathway to success for students from diverse backgrounds. By prioritizing accessibility and affordability, the college is advancing Governor Shapiro's vision of a higher education system that empowers individuals and transforms communities. As discussions surrounding Governor Shapiro's Blueprint for Higher Education continue, Thaddeus Stevens College serves as a compelling example of how institutions can achieve meaningful outcomes while prioritizing the needs of their students and the broader community. With its commitment to equitable access and transformative education, the college remains a driving force in shaping the future of higher education in Pennsylvania. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


LGBTQ Advocate Suzette Mullen gets personal with newest memoir: “The Only Way Through Is Out”

Suzette Mullen's memoir, a poignant blend of introspection, bittersweet reflections, and empowering revelations, serves as both a coming-out and a coming-of-age narrative. In this captivating story, she issues a compelling call to action, urging those who yearn to live authentically to overcome their fears. Despite an outwardly enviable life—complete with college and law degrees, a successful and compassionate husband, two accomplished adult sons, and a picturesque ocean-view vacation home—Suzette found herself constrained by a lifelong commitment to playing it safe and avoiding causing pain to others. While her friends boldly embraced their journeys, she grappled with the elusive reasons holding her back. Delving into her past, Suzette unearthed a profound truth: for nearly two decades, she had harbored romantic feelings for her best friend—a woman. The acknowledgment of these "unspeakable" emotions posed a significant risk to Suzette's identity, relationships, and privileged existence. However, embracing this truth became her pathway to experiencing life to its fullest. As Suzette navigated the complexities of opening herself to new possibilities, an unexpected visit to a different city became a catalyst for self-discovery. In this memoir, she shares her courageous journey, demonstrating that sometimes taking a leap into the unknown is the only way to truly embrace one's authentic self and feel fully alive. Support WITF: See for privacy information.


There's something interesting to SEE here!

In a bid to nurture the intellectual curiosity and academic prowess of gifted students, the Student Enrichment Experience (SEE) program is making waves across Lancaster and Lebanon counties. Catering to students in Grades 4-12, this innovative initiative goes beyond the confines of traditional classrooms to provide thought-provoking seminars throughout the school year. The ever so talented Meredith Yoder who is the Coordinator of Educational Outreach at IU13 Lancaster-Lebanon explains that one of the key aspects of the SEE program is its focus on gifted and academically advanced students in participating school districts or nonpublic schools. She goes on by stating that, by tailoring seminars to the specific needs and strengths of these students, the SEE program serves as a valuable supplement to their individualized education plans and complements the gifted services offered by the school districts. Additionally, the SEE Seminars boast a diverse array of topics and experiences, setting them apart from the regular classroom curriculum. These seminars not only enrich the educational journey of the students but also provide essential social and emotional support. For students with intense interests and curiosity, the SEE program offers a platform where they can connect with like-minded peers from across Lancaster and Lebanon counties. The unique strength of the SEE Seminars lies in their ability to go "beyond the classroom." By engaging students with experts in various fields, the program facilitates in-depth instruction, hands-on activities, and personal insights that contribute to a holistic learning experience. This approach not only challenges students academically but also exposes them to valuable career exploration opportunities. The SEE program recognizes the importance of cultivating vital interpersonal skills for future career success, and these seminars serve as a platform for students to build and refine these skills. Moreover, the SEE program recognizes the significance of documentation in the educational journey. Students can add documentation from these seminars to their individual College and Career Readiness portfolios, enhancing their academic profiles. This not only showcases their commitment to intellectual growth but also provides a tangible record of their engagement in unique and relevant learning experiences. The SEE program is transforming the educational landscape for advanced and gifted students in Lancaster and Lebanon counties. By offering tailored seminars, fostering social and emotional support, and providing opportunities for career exploration, the program is not only enriching the academic journey of these students but also equipping them with the essential skills for success in their future endeavors. The SEE program stands as a testament to the commitment to nurturing the potential of every gifted student in the region. Support WITF: See for privacy information.