Episode 56 | A Spark to Give Back

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Tell me, and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” – Benjamin Franklin

And this quote is especially true for instructor Robert Sparks. Robert teaches at the Daniel Morgan Technology Center (DMTC) in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“We have somewhere close to 900 kids in the entire school over the course of the day,” said Robert. “But upwards of 60-80 kids go through my program every year.”

Students from two local high schools participate in the various programs that DMTC offers. 

“The kids come in groups from both schools throughout the day,” Robert added. “They are transported to the center by bus for their classes.”

The program that Robert Sparks leads is the electrical program.

“I teach residential, commercial, and industrial electrical work,” said Robert.

He has taught for 34 years and helped guide many students on the path to working in the trades.

“Education is the backbone of America,” added Robert. “What would we do without professionals in the trade industry?”

And one of those individuals, who had a chance encounter with Robert in 2011, has helped him further his mission. 

Robert Sparks Re-Connects With A Former Student

“I met Mr. Sparks when I was a sophomore in high school at Cherokee Area Vocational School in Gaffney, South Carolina,” said City Electric Supply (CES) Spartanburg Branch Manager Kevin Ramsey.

Kevin Ramsey will tell you that before he met Robert Sparks, going into the trades wasn’t on his young mind. 

“I initially wanted to be a game warden or a park ranger because I loved camping and being outdoors,” Kevin laughed.

Kevin took many programs at the Cherokee Area Vocational School, but a six-week electrical program with Robert Sparks impacted his life forever.

“I was a sophomore in high school at the time, but Mr. Sparks changed the trajectory of my career aspirations,” Kevin added.

Years later, at another CES branch, a customer came in looking for material for a side project.

“I was working at another branch in Gaffney when I saw a familiar face,” recalled Kevin.

“I was only taught by Mr. Sparks for six weeks. But, when he saw me, he still remembered me.”

For Robert Sparks, seeing a former student of his thriving brought a great sense of accomplishment. 

“I communicate with some of my former students every so often, and seeing their success in the electrical field is very gratifying,” Robert added.

And for Kevin, an opportunity to give back presented itself.

Donating Supplies

“As Mr. Sparks and I were catching up, he asked if I was interested in helping out the Daniel Morgan Technology Center electrical education program,” said Kevin. “I said yes, right away.”

Kevin soon joined the school’s advisory board and began visiting classes.

“When I was sitting in on lessons, I saw that the kids were working with wiring devices like receptacles and light switches,” Kevin said. “And when they were using the material, some of them had no screws.”

“Our programs at this school are federally funded. That means we have to work with a fixed budget, which affects the kind and amount of supplies we have access to,” explained Robert.

But Kevin knew that CES could supply the program with what it needed.

“That’s when I looked at what we had left in our CES inventory and donated 250 receptacles and 250 light switches,” said Kevin. “We also donated some bath fans, motor control parts, load centers, panels, and bent pipes, among other things.”

Robert Sparks provided real-world applications and tools for the students to work on, such as completing circuits, bending radiuses, and setting up electrical panels for new and older homes.

“Having this type of material allows the students to work on these types of projects to prepare them to enter the field,” Kevin added.

Greater Impact On the Industry

“Because of the generosity of City Electric Supply, I’ve been able to maintain a good amount of material stock for my students and save financially,” said Robert.

Robert Sparks is especially thankful for all Kevin has done for DMTC.

“Just from the position that Kevin’s in and the way he’s using it to help give these students the education that he was given shows you where his heart and mind are at,” added Robert.

And Kevin Ramsey hopes to continue this partnership to make a greater impact on the electrical industry as a whole. 

“What we donate helps invest into the futures of these kids. And that is great for the future of the industry,” Kevin added.

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